Online petition takes aim at deer in Port Townsend

By Allison Arthur of the Leader
Posted 8/27/13

A big buck that broke through a fence and devoured several thousand dollars’ worth of crocosmia motivated Fran Post to take aim at what she sees as a deer problem in Port Townsend.

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Online petition takes aim at deer in Port Townsend

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A big buck that broke through a fence and devoured several thousand dollars’ worth of crocosmia motivated Fran Post to take aim at what she sees as a deer problem in Port Townsend.

Post started an online petition at change.org calling for the City of Port Townsend to take action and cull or manage the deer herd.

A self-described “bleeding-heart liberal,” Post says she doesn’t hate deer, doesn’t want them eliminated, but after nine years in Port Townsend she’s seen their numbers grow and she thinks they are having an impact on the well-being of the community.

“Since there are no natural predators in our community, many people believe their population has exceeded the carrying capacity of this local environment,” Post said. “Hence, the request to the city to manage the deer.”

BREAKING FENCES

Far Reaches Farm owner Kelly Dodson, who signed the petition, said the buck Post is talking about “split through” a deer mesh fence and proceeded to chow down on several thousand dollars’ worth crocosmia he planned to sell at a Plant Nerd Night event in Seattle in July sponsored by the Northwest Horticulture Society.

“When they come in here, it’s an international smorgasbord,” Dodson said of past deer encounters at his rare-plant nursery off Hastings Avenue.

Aside from strengthening the fence, Dodson had to change his speech that day for the event since the crocosmia had been wiped out.

After a glass of wine one night, he also wrote a poem titled, “Bambi must die.” He gave a copy of that poem to City Manager David Timmons when Timmons stopped by Far Reaches recently.

“It’s like Crips and Bloods roaming the hood

Looking for a garden that is especially good

Can we go to Far Reaches please?

Tonight is all you can eat Chinese.”

Although Dodson says he loves wildlife and makes accommodations for the plover on his property, the deer are now eating things that are supposed to be on the top-10 list of deer-proof plants – like ceanothus and lilacs.

And Dodson says Port Townsend isn’t alone in having a deer problem.

“This is not unique to Port Townsend. It’s clear across the country,” he said. “There’s a general loss of local business because people are tired of planting things and having them all eaten up.”

Dodson’s small farm is well known throughout the country and internationally. Famed home guru Martha Stewart visited Far Reaches several weeks ago. Dodson was packing up her order Monday.

While Dodson has mended his fence – but not with the big buck – he said he’s more worried about the deer in the city.

He was walking with his dog Uptown recently and the dog typically would want to chase a deer, so he lunged when he saw one. But the Uptown doe his dog barked at “stood her ground and started coming at us,” Dodson said.

CHANGE IN PETITION

Post initially had directed her petition to the state Fish and Wildlife Department, assuming that agency would be responsible.

But then she learned they have no jurisdiction in Port Townsend.

“As I understand it, when there’s a problem outside the city limits, they have hunters they can call, but that’s not true in the city,” she said.

Hunting is not allowed inside city limits, which some believe is one factor leading to the deer proliferation issue. Others point to leash laws that prevent dogs from chasing deer away.

Because it’s a city issue, Post decided to redirect her petition to the City of Port Townsend and as a result, city officials now will be getting messages every time someone signs the online petition.

Post gave the city the heads-up last week.

As of Monday, Aug. 26, 36 people had signed Post’s petition. She expected the people who signed it when it was directed to the state to be OK with her redirecting it to the city.

“Because they have no natural predators the deer population in the City of Port Townsend has become too large for the health of the herd and the health of the community,” the petition states. “They have become invasive, with some displaying very aggressive behavior. Some of our residents are concerned about the possibility of injury, particularly to a child. The herd size needs to be managed.”

Neither Mayor David King nor City Manager David Timmons returned calls Monday seeking comment about the petition.

WHO HAS SIGNED

People also are posting comments on the online petition.

Doug Van Allen wrote, “The deer are out of control and causing significant changes to our historic town.”

Michael McKee wrote, “Deer are causing a traffic hazard that seems to grow each year.”

Tim Lawson wrote, “The size of the herd is out of balance. Plus I’d prefer to be able to grow without having to spend to create a deer proof zone.”

Cris Wilson wrote, “I would be in favor of darting animals with medicine that prevents fertilization. There is a similar program on Catalina Island, CA.”

Emily Mandelbaum wrote, “There have been injuries already. We need to consider becoming their predator and putting the venison to good social use.”

Jeanmarie Morelli agreed that there are too many deer and she noted that there are a number of “mangy looking ones with fur loss and malignant growth by the mouth.”

And Emil Atanasov of Austin, Texas, signed the petition when it was first launched a month ago. “Since humans created the problem by killing off the predators who naturally manage the deer now we must take the burden on to manage the boom in the deer population.”

“It is a prudent choice in this current environment and time,” said Carol Long of Port Townsend.

FIRST ONE STARTED

Post is no newbie to online petitions.

A retired occupational therapist, Post says she’s probably signed about 45 online petitions at change.org dating back to 2011.

The petitions she’s signed have ranged from one protesting an oil refinery in Vancouver, B.C. to one promoting the prosecution of boys in Stuberville, Ohio, who incapacitated a high school girl and repeatedly sexually assaulted her, then boasted about it in social media.

“If I see something I feel is compelling and worthwhile, I’ll sign it,” she said.

While she’s signed a lot of petitions, this is the first petition she’s started. And other than talking to the Leader – someone else sent the Leader a link to her website – she hasn’t been promoting her petition.

“I haven’t pushed it in part because I know there are people who feel just as strongly on the other side and I respect that,” she said.

Although she says other liberal-leaning people she knows also are expressing concern about the deer, she’s just a little worried that a few are going to be upset with her for “going after Bambi.”

What’s also worrisome to Post is that the deer this year seem to be eating things they never ate before, like penstemon.

“I’m also seeing animals that look unhealthy. They have balding spots. And they are not fearful. There is no reason to have fear. Some of them are being handfed, and that’s part of the issue,” Post said.

“I honestly think the population is imbalanced and it needs some control,” she said.

“This will probably get some reaction,” Post said of her petition being in the Leader.

So will people in Port Townsend support Post’s online petition?

Post says she hopes the petition at least puts the deer upfront and center – not of any city road – but of a community conversation.

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