Deer count

Jolene Sunding created this image for the 2016 Port Townsend Deer Count, taking place on the morning of Saturday, April 2. Fourteen teams of volunteers, plus at-home "backyard counters," saw 238 deer between 7 and 7:30 a.m., April 2, in Port Townsend (east of Sheridan Street). Courtesy image

Results are in for Saturday's first-ever Port Townsend Deer Count. Volunteers counted 238 deer in Port Townsend (east of Sheridan Street) between 7 amd 7:30 a.m., Saturday, April 2.

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About 60 people attended a volunteers' meeting at 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 30 at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center's Natural History Exhibit at Fort Worden.

"Backyard counters" counted deer at home from 7 to 7:30 a.m. on Saturday and reported findings online.

The deer count is just for fun, and to satisfy curiosity; it is not part of any effort to manage or control the deer.

Organizers Loran Scruggs, Sue Long and Tim Lawson divided the area east of Sheridan Street into 14 different zones of similar sizes. The counting zones do not represent all of Port Townsend; other counts may be conducted in the city's more wooded areas.

Teams of volunteers walk the streets in each zone, noting information about deer, including location, time, size and activity. Volunteers need not be city residents.

A post-count potluck takes place at 5 p.m., Saturday, April 2, at the Fort Worden beach kitchen shelter, giving everyone a chance to talk about how it went and also to announce the winner of the contest to guess how many deer are going to be counted. Are there 50? Are there 500?

Also, official Port Townsend Deer Count T-shirts can be purchased at the volunteer counters' meeting, 7-8 p.m., March 30, or won by correctly guessing the number of deer counted.


Port Townsend's deer population may seem tame – but these are wild animals, and should be treated as such.

"We always tell people that deer are wild animals, and to keep their distance," said Kit Rosenberger, a sergeant with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Port Townsend.

Because fawning season begins in May, he said, "deer are more defensive around that time ... They won't let people or dogs in a certain area. They'll stand their ground and won't move out of people's way."

Deer are rarely aggressive toward people, said Rosenberger, though urban deer can become "totally used to people ... which is a bad idea." WDFW gets about a dozen calls per year in PT, he said, most about deer hit by cars or tangled up in fences, or deer eating people's flowers.

"We advise them to try to plant flowers that deer don't like to eat," he said. Sprinklers attached to motion detectors can also inhibit unwanted grazing.

"We'll get some calls saying, 'Hey, this deer's not afraid of people at all, it's not letting me walk my dog in my usual area.'"

In Rosenberg's former station, Anacortes, a buck "chased someone into the house and wouldn't let them leave," he said.

"We don't recommend that people feed the deer," he said, because feeding stations attract clusters of deer. "We don't like deer being in close proximity to each other. It spreads diseases."

Feeding the deer also attracts rodents, he said. "Nature has a balance. If you feed the deer, you're artificially boosting the numbers in that area."

(1) comment

Tom Camfield

The uncounted probably included the half dozen or so lounging about inside the hedges of our yard in Uptown P.T. We'll also soon be doing baby-sitting for newborn fawns, whom the mothers often deposit with us while they wander of to forage and socialize.

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