BOONE – Residents of a Boone community are seeking help from the Boone Town Council in curbing what they say is deer overpopulation.
Chris Thaxton, representing the University Village Property Owners Association, asked the council to consider an ordinance restricting the intentional feeding of deer as well as to develop and deploy an effective deer and wildlife management plan.
Thaxton presented results from a survey conducted by the University Village POA, with most of the respondents saying there’s a deer overpopulation problem.
“The deer population is now so high that residents are asking the town council to take action to help mitigate the impacts,” Thaxton wrote in a Nov. 9 memo. “These impacts include car accidents with and without personal injury; loss of decorative vegetation and gardens; nuisance behavior to humans and pets; concern over the spread of disease.”
According to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, there are an estimated one million white-tail deer, the most common type of deer, in North Carolina. The one million number would calculate to roughly 18.5 deer per square mile in the state.
According to a 2015 study by the NCWRC, Watauga County has between 30 and 44 deer per square mile.
“Without some control, deer populations grow larger than their habitat can support, causing mass starvation and disease in deer herds, as well as severe crop depredation and overgrazing of habitat,” the NCWRC’s profile on white-tail deer states.
Thaxton referenced a petition launched in 2019 asking the town to curb what is seen as an overpopulation of deer. Comments include people saying they’re afraid to walk with their children or dogs due to the proliferation of deer.
Deer population impacts aren’t limited to Boone. In Beech Mountain, deer numbers have been referenced at council meetings and candidate forums for years, with citizens and council members noting that the deer don’t run away from people or cars anymore.
For the intentional feeding of deer, Thaxton’s proposal included a definition as provided by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.
“Feeding is defined as placing food, either natural or artificially produced, with the intent of supplementing the naturally occurring food available to deer in their normal home range,” Thaxton’s proposal stated. “Supplemental feeding does not include leaving unharvested agricultural crops, leaving agricultural bi-products in place after normally accepted harvesting, cutting native vegetation or artificially fertilizing herbaceous or woody sites or baiting for the purposes of hunting.”
Council Member Sam Furgiuele said he didn’t see how fining people for intentionally feeding deer would solve anything and was wary of implementing a plan for controlling wildlife.
“I don’t think the town has the capacity or funds to do a full wildlife management plan,” Furgiuele said.
Furguiele questioning why the town should add more ordinances, saying many of the current ones aren’t enforced. Thaxton’s report made note that citizens would have to enforce a feeding ordinance and be proactive with reports to the local police.
Thaxton said the plan would not call for hunting in the town and noted that feeding deer is actually bad for the deer.
Councilperson Lynne Mason asked if there were more accidents and was concerned about public health and safety issues.
Boone Police Chief Dana Crawford said that a police report isn’t necessarily required with a deer collision, noting that drivers usually call their insurance companies afterward.
Crawford said that Boone Police have been called to either a deer wreck or to put an injured deer down 67 times in the past year, up from 61 the year before. Crawford added that’s likely a very low number compared to an actual total.
After deliberation and discussion, the council asked Thaxton to come back with more comprehensive data for future discussions. Thaxton added that he wants to clear up misconceptions about the proposal.