Left to right: Texas State graduate student/wildlife consultant Matt Anding, San Marcos Animal Services Manager Bert Stratemann, San Marcos Director of Community Services Rodney Cobb and San Marcos Assistant Director of Community Services Health/Animal Services Division Mark Brinkley discuss deer management outside of last week’s city council meeting. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
San Marcos officials are considering ways to reduce the city’s deer population, though a majority of the city council has expressed concern about the possible costs of such efforts.
Councilmembers last week directed staff to compile cost estimates of various deer management strategies, plus preliminary recommendations and a feasibility assessment of a deer feeding ban.
Last week, the city’s animal services presented councilmembers with the results of a recent web-based, deer management survey of residents and discussed problems associated with neighborhood deer, such as landscaping damage, potential spreading of the anthrax and lyme diseases, vehicle collisions, and the potential for injury to residents from horns and hooves.
“Pretty much, the areas that we’re seeing problems are in a belt that runs kind of adjacent with the green spaces, starting at Aquarena Springs by the lake,” said San Marcos Animal Services Manager Bert Stratemann. “It goes up through the Mimosa Circle area back down Schulle Canyon, down Holland Street, back down Franklin (Drive) and back over to, ultimately, across the green space where the Wonder World extension is, and back into the Willow Creek area, ending up back on Hunter Road in those areas. Almost in a perfect arc, we see consistent deer-car collisions. We have complaints with deer eating landscaping.”
The survey drew 638 responses, with 337 indicating support for a law banning deer feeding, 253 opposing such a ban, and 48 skipping the question.
Animal services said any deer management strategy would entail killing deer, take multiple years, and must be preceded by a census of the animals. Asked by councilmembers how much a deer census would cost, Stratemann said he did not know, but would find out by consulting with Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) and Texas State. Councilmember John Thomaides said a census would likely take more than one year.
“I’ll support looking at anything that does not involve spending taxpayer dollars,” said Councilmember Ryan Thomason. “I think any dollar in any program is more productive than counting deer.”
Councilmember Fred Terry immediately expressed agreement with Thomason’s statement. Thomaides said the potential costs of deer management, as previously related to him by an industry professional, “scared him.”
Staff said some Texas cities spend between $14,000 and $58,800 per year on deer management efforts.
Councilmember Gaylord Bose said the council should consider the costs to residents of damage caused by deer. Bose asked staff to gather statistics indicating the extent and cost of deer-vehicle collisions in the city.
“I don’t really want to spend that much money on something like that when we’ve got so many other programs that are in need, but I do think we maybe do have a little bit of a problem,” said Councilmember Chris Jones. “I think I went through about four grilles on my Chevrolet Blazer trying to come down Sessom (Drive), hitting deer. So, I do think it is a hazard.”
The city’s deer management survey featured the question, “Do you believe actions need to be taken to reduce the deer population?” Those who responded “yes” numbered 335, 256 said “no,” and 47 skipped the question. The statement, “The deer cause many problems and solutions are needed” garnered the approval of 267 respondents. To the statement, “The deer cause some problems, but not enough to worry about,” 259 respondents voted agreement. Only 68 approved of the statement, “The deer do not cause any problems in San Marcos,” and 44 skipped the question. Seventy-one survey respondents admitted to feeding deer, 526 said they do not feed them, and 41 people indicated nothing.
The survey showed that 234 respondents reported no damage to property or landscaping from deer, 237 reported moderate damage, and 126 reported severe damage, while 41 people skipped the question.
City ordinance permits the discharge of firearms under certain circumstances, including “against a dangerous animal to protect life or property.” Animal services staff said residents must have a special TPW-issued permit to kill deer in the city.
Respondents were given a range of five choices for indicating their levels of concern regarding the results of deer management in San Marcos (not concerned, rarely concerned, neutral, somewhat concerned and very concerned). The effectiveness of such efforts came out as the greatest concern, with 84.7 percent saying they were somewhat concerned or very concerned and only 4.5 percent saying they were not concerned or rarely concerned.
The survey showed that 67.6 percent were somewhat concerned or very concerned about humaneness, while 20.7 percent said they were not concerned or very concerned. As to the cost of such efforts, 63 percent said they were very concerned or somewhat concerned, while 18.9 percent said they were not concerned or rarely concerned.
“What’s going to happen is, these deer, for the most part, are going to be killed,” said San Marcos Assistant Director of Community Services Health/Animal Services Division Mark Brinkley. “They’re going to be harvested. The main reason for that right now is, there’s not any ranches that are accepting more deer onto their places.”
The deer management survey was developed by Texas State geography graduate student Matt Anding, said San Marcos Director of Community Services Rodney Cobb.Email | Print