Home » MBJ FEATURE » Oxford tackles city's white tail deer population

Oxford tackles city's white tail deer population

deer-rgbThe City of Oxford’s white tail deer management plan, which allows bow hunting within the city limits, is just completing its third year, and while the program is still battling some growing pains, the city’s “deer guy” says the program appears to be showing some returns.

“We’re still waiting on hard numbers from this year’s season, but we’re getting reports of fewer deer, and I’m also hearing from law enforcement that they are working fewer deer-vehicle accidents,” said Jimmy Allgood, emergency management coordinator in Oxford who is serving as point man on the deer management program. “We’re a little ahead of where we thought we would be when we started the program.”

In response to citizens’ complaints of deer causing property damage and escalating deer-vehicle collisions, in 2009 city officials, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, & Parks (MDWFP), began developing a plan to thin its deer population. Taking components from eight established deer management programs around the U.S., leaders crafted a customized solution that includes: public education on deer and their habits; ban on deer feeding; repellents/hazing/frightening techniques; and, managed hunting.

It is the hunting component of the plan that has garnered the most attention and created the biggest challenges.

“Obviously, safety was and is our number one concern,” Allgood said.

Some of the provisions in the plan, which focuses on thinning does (hunters must drop three does before they are allowed to harvest a buck), to help ensure public safety include:

» Hunting is only authorized through an animal control permit issued by the MDWFP after receiving application from the city.

» Individual in-city bow hunters (no guns allowed) must hold appropriate state hunting licenses, and must pass both a bow-hunting exam and proficiency test.

» Individuals are assigned to a specified area for hunting.

» Applicants must be at least 30 years old.

» Landowners must give their permission before harvesting.

So far, the plan has a clean safety record.

However, challenges remain. For instance, some inner city neighborhoods have lots too small to safely hunt deer, according to Allgood. Unless surrounding property owners give their permission, some homeowners who want their deer harvested are refused.

Allgood said perhaps the biggest challenge is not citizen’s participation — it’s the hunters. He said the deer are so easy to kill that some hunters become bored, and he loses them when other seasons such as waterfowl hunting open.

But, the city likes the numbers. Launched in 2010, 44 deer were harvested by hunters (while 65 were killed in vehicle collisions). In 2011, that number doubled to 88.

The numbers from this past year’s season were not in at press time (the season runs through the end of January). But, late last year officials reported counting a large number of fawns, which means a possible increase in the number of deer in the coming season and beyond. Thus, the city reached out to homeowners last November, asking that more became program participants. Allgood said response was good.

Perhaps the best measure of program’s success is would-be imitators. City officials have fielded questions and offered advice to other communities around the nation that have looked at Oxford’s program and want to emulate it.

So far, however, no other community in Mississippi has implemented deer harvesting within its boundaries, according to Chad Dacus, assistant director of the MDWFP’s Wildlife Bureau. He said there might be some rural areas that are allowing hunting on some level, but nowhere is there an incorporated area with a certified, comprehensive deer-management program matching the one in Oxford.

“I know there are some areas — Tupelo and Madison/Ridgeland, particularly Ridgeland — that have discussed or looked at possible programs, but as of now none have been implemented,” Dacus said.

Allgood said the city would continue to monitor the program, tweaking when and where needed. He said he envisioned a day when the city might only have hunting for a few weeks instead of the whole season because the deer numbers are acceptable and healthy.

“We thought it would take maybe eight years to see real results, but we’re already having some success,” Allgood said. “We’ll watch it and adjust accordingly.”

For the complete deer management plan, visit www.oxfordms.net/live-here/deer-management/management-plan.html.

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