The feeding of deer by some Port Townsend residents has led to an excessively large deer population and may be creating a health and safety crisis, Uptown District residents told members of the City Council Oct. 2.

City Manager David Timmons said he would talk with Police Chief Michael Evans and City Attorney Steve Gross to see what could be done.

“I know it’s a major nuisance,” Timmons said of the deer, adding that more could be done if the deer problem were deemed a public health or safety issue.

“We will look into it. There has been a lot of headway made on the sterilization program, and I think that that’s probably the most beneficial for us to look into,” Timmons said.

At least four people shared their concerns about deer with the council.

Jo Chandler, who lives near Lawrence and Cass streets, said a nearby neighbor “is a well-known deer feeder, deer breeder, [who is] feeding and breeding herds of deer.

“I do have some photos of him feeding the deer, which he’s very proud of. Herds of hand-fed deer increase disease transmission such as bovine TB, a chronic, infectious disease of deer that, as a nurse, I know can be transmitted to humans from their exhaled air, sputum, urine, feces and direct contact,” Chandler said. “Hand feeding causes overpopulation, fleas, ticks and inbreeding deformities, which we see every day.”

Chandler also said people are honking at deer and their fawns as they cross the street and that a deer had recently been struck by a car where she lived.

“Its legs quivering, trying to get up, bleeding profusely from its head,” as other cars swerved, trying not to strike the deer a second time, she said of what she saw as a safety hazard.

Lynne Stryker, who also lives in Uptown, was concerned about both public safety and the humane treatment of wildlife. She said driving in the area was challenging due to uncontrolled intersections, plants that block visibility and plentiful deer.

“It’s a daily occurrence for me to watch deer being injured near my home,” Stryker said.

“We woke up to just a horrible deer carcass within the last week … hideous thing that someone had hit overnight. My concern is we need to be responsible for public safety and for the humane treatment of the injured deer here.”

Her next-door neighbor had a dead deer in her yard, but the neighbor was unable to drag it away.

“Someone obviously hit it and left. And this is a really common situation in Port Townsend.”

Stryker suggested that the city could put up some “deer crossing” signs.

“My hope is we could stop feeding the wild animals, but that’s a whole ’nother subject. We’ve got herds of deer – 20 to 30 – that literally wander in a pack down Cass Street.”

Forest Shomer, who lives on Chestnut Street, said he’s studied how other places – including Staten Island, New York; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Vancouver, British Columbia; Victoria, British Columbia; and Bellingham, Washington, have dealt with the problem of deer infestations.

“This is not something that only Port Townsend is dealing with,” as the other cities are “all dealing with the same issue: no predators and uncontrolled multiplying deer populations,” he said.

Shomer recalled a big snowstorm in 1984 when he went out to his garden and was “surprised to see deer tracks in the garden. In those days, that was very unusual … that was 33 years ago. So that’s how much things have changed.”

The city should take action, Shomer said, either by making it illegal to feed deer or by sterilizing them.

Even fences aren’t a solution to the deer problem.

“Do we want to live in a town that has every house enclosed in an 8-foot wire fence?” Shomer asked.

Furthermore, he said, the properties that have fences are diverting deer to places that are not yet fenced, putting pressure on people who cannot afford a high fence.

“This will only fester and get worse until we put focused attention on it,” he said.

Joan Fabian, who lives in the same neighborhood, said she’s lived in Port Townsend for 33 years and that someone in the area regularly feeds deer out of his hand. Deer have also knocked down parts of her wooden fence while rubbing their antlers against it, she said.

Raccoons are also attracted to the deer food, she said, and the raccoons have damaged her roof and also used part of her yard as a “raccoon latrine.”

“I’ve sustained a lot of property damage,” Fabian said.

“There are concerns also with, again, the privilege of one person feeding the deer and causing multiple people in the neighborhood the expense of even putting up a new 6-foot fence, when that is the limit of fencing that we can do,” she said.

Residents in the area are also faced with managing deer feces, she said, and “the food being left out has allowed for escalation of the rat population.”

Fabian asked council members to make it illegal to feed wildlife in city limits.

“The operative word is keeping them ‘wild,’” she said.

(10) comments

David Thielk

There is no question that feeding, or otherwise assisting, deer, raccoons, or other nuisance wildlife should be outlawed, and the law should be strictly enforced with fines.

On the other hand, complaining about deer seems to me just another whine. I have been here a mighty long time, and I have never come close to hitting a deer with my car. Why? Because I drive the speed limit, and I drive carefully. Deer have never jumped unexpectedly in front of me, and when they have entered the roadway, I slow down or stop till it is safe to proceed.

Cars are a far bigger nuisance. The vast majority of drivers in this town drive in excess of 25 mph (and this probably the case when contact is made with a deer). Drivers do not understand the laws relating to cyclists and pedestrians. Automobiles are contributing to planet death via CO2 emission. They make noise and they kick up road dust. They are also responsible for far more health issues in humans than deer will ever be.

So, I say, let's learn to deal with the deer in a practical reasonable matter. But let's ban the real nuisance, which is the automobile OK, compromise, let's all obey the speed limit, make sure we understand how to co exist with bicyclists and pedestrians, keep our car maintained, and only drive when the distance is greater than, say, 5 miles. Otherwise, ride a bike.

Richard Hammond

The thing is we have too many Deer. Last years deer count found that we had 248 in the city limits. When I drive the speed limit from the uptown to Fort Worden and see a pack of them every other block, you have to realize that there is an issue. To be honest without the cars, the deer would have no predators at all and it would be an even worse problem. This is a city with ten thousand people in seven square miles. It is becoming too easy for them to multiply.

Liz Randol

Please keep the deer wild. To the one who feeds deer...It is almost never a good idea to feed wild animals. they deserve to stay wild. You are robbing them of survival skills that they need, and creating an unnatural dependency.

Jason Victor Serinus

True. However, the reality is that the deer are in an unnatural situation. All their natural predators have been either eliminated or decimated in population, and have been replaced by automobile drivers and hunters (outlawed in Port Townsend). Their natural habitat is also being destroyed, lot by lot, as houses are built, trees are tumbled, and fences erected.

A two-pronged solution is called for: outlawing the feeding of deer, raccoons, and wildlife other than birds, and sterilization of the male population. In an artificial situation that is sorely out of balance, intervention is called for.

David Thielk

It is a reality that deer are in an unnatural habitat. And so our we! I am amused that we are all so anthropocentric that we always come up with simplistic solutions that elevate human lifestyles as being the paramount of how a species should live, or is entitled to live. Up above someone was complaining that deer fencing is expensive (it is not expensive; it costs far less than a month of automobile expenses, depending on the size of the yard). And then, to blame the deer when they get hit by a car. Slow down, for pete's sake. Watch where you are going. Take responsibility for owning a car and all that might go along with it. Stop trying to make nature bend to your will, simply because you live in Port Townsend.

How about this solution: We close town to most traffic one or two days a week, and let our dogs run off leash on those days. I know from personal experience that deer to have memories, and will learn to avoid areas where they are chased by hounds. Deer rarely come to my yard, even with the dog in at night.

Think of how great it would be! Deer would slowly migrate out of town. And the dogs! How they would love to have some real work. And the bond within the pack would be enhanced - humans and dogs together routing out deer. My dog, Ruby simply wants to throw up every time she sees some dog on a leash with his/her owner, and the owner is giving the dog some kind of 'treat' for sitting or chasing after a human made ball. She wants to run over and liberate the dog. Let's start treating our dogs less like little pets and more like a member of the pack, with real work to do.

I know, I know. We don't like deer in town, We don't like dogs off leash. We don't like mill smoke. We don't like growlers. We live in the most wonderful town in all of America. How many times have senior citizens come up to me and said "another day in paradise." But, apparently, all of the events designed to keep us stimulated and entertained are not enough! We have to complain about deer. Lord, what a narrow human based thought process defines the culture we choose to live in.

Justin Hale

I agree with almost all of your comment David except the dogs running wild, closing the streets to vehicles will never happen and it shouldn't. I have seen what happens when a dog pack catches it's prey, not a pretty sight. Adding another pack of animals roaming the streets bad idea. Maybe you were jesting?
I like living in a town where the deer roam free. When I pass deer along the roadway I always flash my lights at oncoming traffic to warn them to be alert.
To the people who have a problem with the deer I say move! The deer were here first, once again a little "live and let live" might be in order.

David Thielk

Well, I was partly jesting. I did not mean just turn your dogs out and not pay attention. But I do think that it only takes a couple good chases, and deer will move on. My dog would go ape crazy if I let her run deer once or twice a month. She does not need a pack. She is happy all on her own.

Regarding cars being banned - I am so sick of being run off the road by unwitting drivers in this town. I ride my bike or walk most places. I haul big loads with my bike. I use my car only when absolutely necessary. I even go out to Chimacum and back on bike, rather than use a car. Many drivers in this town don't have a clue about the state laws regarding road sharing. And they drive accordingly.

I am annoyed when I see dozens of cars piled up in front of Grant Street and Blue Heron, with their engines idling and the windows rolled up in spring and fall, and their engines running and the windows rolled up in the winter. I get extremely annoyed when I ride downtown on my bike in the summer and the cars are all lined up waiting for the ferry, with their windows rolled up and the engine running. I get extremely annoyed on Kearney street when day after day, cars pull out in front of me, expecting me to turn off into the gravel shoulder. If you have ever heard or saw a 60 something yelling at you to slow down, or even gesturing with his finger at you, as you passed by at 30 to 45 in a 25 mph zone, or did not leave enough room, it was very likely me.

How can we get annoyed at deer? When cars are so much more problematic. Yes, you are correct, it will never happen. We will never close the streets to traffic for aday or so. People are too self centered and have too small of comfort zones, and want to baby and pamper themselves to give up their cars for a day or so. Most AMericans view the possession and use of a car as a personal right, guaranteed in the constitution. They get their underwear in a know when the price of gas goes up (even though it is a government subsidized price, and we are not even beginning to include the environmental costs of using gas).

And, mostly, the car drivers don't see the hazards of driving a car. They blithely negotiate the burning of gas, and then, like your self, Justin, refuse to see the direct connection between the gas burned in their cars on the way to Starbucks, and the fires in CA that are destroying homes, and taking lives.

And, then, to complain about deer. Amazing.

Justin Hale

"And, mostly, the car drivers don't see the hazards of driving a car.",,,,,"like your self, Justin".
BS David, why do you ASSume you know my lifestyle, and what I comprehend, see and not see. Do you own a car David ?, do you ever fly in airplanes? Holier-than-thou much?

David Thielk

Not sure how much holier I am than you since I am not a religious person. But lets get down to brass tacks. Are you willing to acknowledge your role in the current state of the climate? Are you willing to acknowledge the re of the internal combustion engine, and the over use of individual cars in the worsening hurricane and fire situ a tions? Also, tell me.wbat no d of cars you drive and how many miles you put on your cars each year. And also, how many miles in an airplane.

Then we can have a conversation about holiness. Espousing ideological rhetoric about trump, climate change and deer on a website means very little when it comes to holiness. On the other hand, behaviors may indicate a.kind of holineas, as you call it. Please, share!

Tom Camfield

I teach my pets to co-exist with other critters. I've never had a dog that got all up tight with deer. My old cat hasn't been aggressive with a bird for a great many years. He lies and watches them eat when I toss a little something to the crows in seasons of poor forage. The crow regulars also alight and eat within 8 or 10 feet of him when he's lying near their feeding spot in the alley. (No, I don't feed deer.). When stray cats wander in--deserted and/or hungry, my resident cats have always been taught to share and not get all territorial, never fight over food. Everyone eventually becomes a house cat--but we also have a halfway house for the semi-feral, an outbuilding with a cat door and a personal heating pad for cold weather. We have a cat no. 2 spending his nights there now.

As the guy said, "Can't we all just get along?"

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