Authorities Still Unsure What to Do About Urban Deer
Residents in the Pepperwood Community are split on what to do about the local urban deer population despite continued damage to property and the potential attraction of predators to the area.
Pepperwood Homeowners Association (HOA) Board of Trustees President Jim Jensen said there is not a consensus among board members and residents on what to do, if anything.
He said opinions range from no action because people see the deer as an amenity to the area to an open bow hunt for urban deer by residents.
Jensen doubts there is “willingness” or “appetite” to take any action as a board of trustees. No formal action would be binding, Jensen said, noting that deer removal programs are regulated by the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources.
“I don’t get worried about it,” Jensen said when asked about the deer’s impact on his landscape.
Herds of more than 20 deer frequent resident David Teerlink’s yard — many times with large trophy bucks. He estimates there are at least 150 deer in the area. Teerlink’s company, Teerlink Property Services, manages the Pepperwood Homeowner Association.
Despite the number of deer and evidence of their negative impact, Sandy City doesn’t have a deer abatement program. Sandy City Animal Services Director Ian Williams said deer removal will come before the city council later in the year, possibly in early fall.
Stories of thousands of dollars of property damage and even deaths of family dogs are not uncommon in the neighborhood according to Teerlink.
Recently, his wife hit a large, pregnant doe with their new Mercedes, causing about $8,000 in damage.
“It could have been worse if a car had been coming the other way as she was forced into oncoming traffic,” Teerlink said in an email.
Since moving in, he estimates he’s lost about $3,000 of landscaping and has had to replace all his landscaping with deer-resistant plants.
“Everyone has pretty much the same flowers the deer don’t like to eat,” Teerlink said in an interview. He also sees damage to homeowner and HOA lawns from deer traversing the same daily routes.
He and the HOA had to convince a homeowner to remove a certain plant from their yard because it attracted several deer across a busy thoroughfare; it’s the same area where Teerlink’s wife hit the deer.
The deer are unafraid of humans, according to Teerlink, and are likely to stand their ground, if not confront people, when approached. The only thing the deer appear to be afraid of are large dogs, Teerlink said.
HOA Board of Trustees member Gordon Johnson sent an email to the rest of the board saying that a doe attacked a resident’s family dog and wouldn’t back down until the resident’s wife joined him in chasing off the deer.
Johnson believes something needs to be done for resident safety and said it would be a topic on a board meeting.
Jensen, however, is concerned about disease. He said he has seen “deer that are really skinny or shedding abnormally.”
He also had a deer kill itself on his backyard fence. It took officials a few days to get the deer off the property.
Teerlink also said safety is an issue, but fears something more dangerous may follow the complacent deer, a fear that may have been vindicated.
“It’s going to be the perfect ground for cougars and other predators to get some real easy pickings,” Teerlink said.
A resident reported to Teerlink that a cougar killed a deer in their backyard in the first week of August, smashing a glass patio table in the process.
However, Sandy Police and Animal Service said they have no reports of deer being attacked by any predators.
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) Central Region Program Manager Riley Peck said that while cougar sightings are not unusual all along the Wasatch front, they are not common enough to disregard. All cougar sightings are catalogued in a database, Peck said.
He also said there are no known instances of cougars hunting urban deer populations since cougars are secretive and do not frequent the same areas that humans do.
Williams said he typically gets calls for cougar tracks and sightings during the winter, especially in the early snow falls.
“You can almost set your watch by it.” Williams said. “Once late November comes around, people will report the cougar tracks in the snow on their property.”
Williams also noted that cougars will typically come to the eastern parts of the city against the mountains in the winter to avoid the harsher climate up the mountain.
He also said that both the police and animal control will respond in tandem to cougar sightings; animal control is a division within the police department.
Animal services will arrive with chemical apprehension, or tranquilizer, guns while officers will provide lethal cover in the event of an attack.
If possible, animal services will wait until the DWR arrives with a transport truck with blankets and a stretcher to help move the animal.
Often a state biologist will perform an examination on the animal for studies and to help determine if the animal is healthy enough to release into the wild.
While action or sentiment against the deer isn’t growing, Teerlink believes the deer population is.
Teerlink said it’s not uncommon to see a doe with two fawns. Typically, a doe will birth one fawn in her first pregnancy and then is more likely to have twins after that. This suggests that adult does are breeding repeatedly.
“Deer are attracted to the prettiest yards,” Peck said. “If your yard was a desert or gravel pit, deer wouldn’t go there.”
Peck said neighborhood deer is a repeating issue and may be a fact of living so close to the mountains.
Peck has observed that many DWR deer abatement information meetings see varying opinions on the matter.
“It is an interesting dynamic that a free deer to one person is a problem and to another it’s a huge problem,” Peck said.