Evergreen Times

Changing course

August 10, 2007

Carol Rosen, Staff Writer

The Villages proposed bow and arrow deer hunt set to begin last Monday, Aug. 6, was dropped after a week’s worth of negative publicity.

Much of the hoopla surrounding the proposed plan for reducing the deer population that management complained were eating $10,000 worth of landscape a month, dealt with the method of what some people termed was an “inhumane and barbaric” way to thin the herd.

Instead, the Villages has hired the Little Blue Society, a non-profit group in Redwood City whose “mission is to create an appreciation for the interdependence of human and animal life in a sustainable world, and to facilitate mutually beneficial human and animal interaction, especially in urban and marine environments. We are dedicated to the recognition of environmental sustainability as the fundamental tenant of an enlightened public interest,” according to its Web site.

The commotion from news reports sent the retirement community’s boards of directors and managers looking for a different solution. The initial decision to thin the herd by killing eight deer with bows and arrows created an uproar in which acting General Manager Steve Loupe complained he was struggling to do his job because of the steady flow of phone calls.

Loupe told the Times that residents’ complaints that deer were eating plants initially prompted management to work with California’s Fish and Game Department, which according to Loupe and to state biologist Jennifer DeWald, did an extensive study to determine the best method of eliminating the deer from the area. The proposed plan, which had been recommended by Fish and Game at other times and for other locations, is deemed the least stressful for the herd (see Evergreen Times, July 27, issue).

Other suggested solutions, such as moving or relocating the deer, were turned down because of the cost and because it could potentially harm more deer since they would not be familiar with predators in the new areas.

The Little Blue Society spent two days last week on a site evaluation that they completed on Aug. 9. They are currently putting together a presentation for the boards for next week.

“We plan to present our findings and discuss a solution,” said Mary Paglieri, the president and CEO of the Little Blue Society. “The idea is to tweak the environment in such a way that the deer won’t eat the vegetation around people’s homes. The deer population will remain stable,” but by changing the food supply the deer will not venture near the homes, she added.

In a press release issued July 31 by Villages management, after the association and club governing boards met with residents at their regular monthly board meetings, management explained that they had “received additional expert information on the problem.”

The information came from the Little Blue Society, which has “a great deal of experience with wildlife and a history of solving similar problems for many entities including the city of San Jose.”

In a private meeting held July 31, the group offered Villages’ management and various boards a presentation on non-lethal methods of eliminating the deer. The Villages “hired them to conduct a study and submit a report with possible solutions for a long range plan. When their report is ready, it will be carefully studied by both the association and club boards to determine the next step to provide a safer place for both the residents and the deer,” the release stated.

Calls placed to Loupe were not returned at press time.

The society, according to its Web site, has offered an alternative proposition to control the level of deer damage to the Villages property, which totals about 1,000 acres. The new proposal offers a solution that would “naturally reduce their [deer] population over a period of several years.”

“The [Villages] board members were quite receptive to our proposal. They were pleased there were other intelligent, ecologically sound alternatives available that would permanently resolve the conflict with deer at the Villages,” the society further stated on its Web site.

Since that meeting, the society conducted a two-day site evaluation and is in the process of developing a program offering short and long-term solution. The society expects to present the solution to both of the boards in the near future.