Evergreen Times

The Villages plans to ‘thin’ local deer herd with bow hunters
Strategy brings out strong feelings

July 27, 2007
Carol Rosen, Staff Writer

A plan by the board of directors of The Villages Golf and Country Club to thin out a large deer herd has garnered strong opinions from the community’s residents and from others in the area following a recent local newspaper report.

“One night I came home and there were about eight to 10 of them standing on my driveway and they wouldn’t move,” said Ann Marie Quellman, a Villages resident. “They’ve got everything they love to eat and water to drink. They are cute, but they can also be a nuisance too.”

The plan, which received a depredation permit from the Fish and Game Department, will use two skilled bow hunters to kill eight deer sometime after Aug. 6.

According to Steve Loupe, The Villages acting general manager, and Fish and Game biologist Jeannine DeWald, this tactic will scare the herd and send the remaining deer back to the hills. Depredation creates wariness in the deer population. The animals, sensing there is a predator in their midst, will then disperse to the outer areas.

Some appear to be behind the plan, while others, noted one Villages resident, find the method of using bow hunters to be “barbaric and disgusting.” DeWald, however, said there are viable reasons for using the bow hunters.

“It’s actually safer [to use a bow and arrows] when working that close to homes because an arrow has a shorter range than bullets do,” said DeWald, a biologist at the Fish and Game Department in Monterey.

The department doesn’t permit hunters to use rifles in areas close to homes. She added that this is the same method the department favors for a variety of wild animals including pigs, turkeys, bear, elk, grey squirrels, beavers or mountain lions. DeWald said this type of thinning of herds is more humane than other methods.

“The problem with any weapon is that it might injure and not kill the animal,” she said. “While arrows kill slightly more slowly—a minute compared to not quite a minute with a rifle—it’s been studied and if the hunters are skilled, it works well.”

The objective is to give the targeted animals as little stress as possible, she said. For example, DeWald said that tranquilizing an animal with a dart and then euthanizing it is far more stressful than killing it with an arrow.

“It often takes five to 10 minutes for the tranquilizer to take affect,” she said, noting that in turn, this causes additional stress and disorientation.

Loupe said the decision was made after extensive study and approval by the Fish and Game Department.

“Fish and Game inspected the area, observed the deer population and approved and issued the depredation permit,” he said.

“We worked with them [Fish and Game] to determine the best method [of thinning the herd]. It should be clear that the board of directors didn’t come to this decision lightly. It is the safest and least obtrusive method and we’ve hired skilled professionals who know what they are doing,” Loupe said.

The deer have been visiting the area for a long time, Loupe said. He estimated the population to be between 100 and 200 deer roaming the 1,000-acre area of The Villages. The main reason the board of directors wants to do this is to ensure residents’ safety, he said. In short, the need to thin the herd, he added, will help put to rest concerns that deer predators, such as coyotes and mountain lions, will also leave the eastern hills and come to the area looking for food near the residences.

There are other reasons for the thinning of the herd as well, according to both Loupe and DeWald. DeWald said deer often carry tick-borne diseases, especially Lyme disease, in this area. In addition, she said, deer are not so kind to those around them, especially during the mating season. Fish and Game has reports of male rutting deer attacking dogs or even people during rutting season.

Loupe estimated the deer cause about $10,000 worth of damages per month to homeowners’ landscapes, as the herd feeds off bushes and plants near homes.

One local resident said the deer have, at times, become a nuisance.

“One night I came home and there were about eight to 10 of them standing on my driveway and they wouldn’t move,” said Ann Marie Quellman, a Villages resident. “They’ve got everything they love to eat and water to drink. They are cute, but they can also be a nuisance too.”

Quellman said she agreed with a comment from Loupe, who believes the majority of residents think this is the best way to end the problem.

“Most people aren’t upset. The deer are eating everything. They are a nuisance,” said Quellman.

However, another resident, who asked to remain anonymous, was upset about the method of eradication.

“Why isn’t there an alternative to using a bow and arrows? Who decided that eight would be killed? How do we know they will only kill eight?” she said.

Her landscape includes deer-resistant plants. She also suggested that there might be other alternatives to depredation, such as building a higher fence to keep the deer and other animals out.

Loupe said that would be a good idea, but that the cost of the fence would be prohibitive.

The resident said the whole thing was happening too quickly and she questioned why the decision to thin the herd happened so fast. Finally, she said more education is necessary so that residents understand what is happening, and why.

All residents will be able to discuss their criticism at the regular monthly Association and Club board meetings scheduled for July 31, at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. respectively. A public forum will be available for those residents in favor or against the measure.