Pinehurst should reduce the urban deer herd through a “selective” hunting program, according to a village task force’s final report.
That report, which now goes to the Village Council for consideration, says any culling program “should be highly controlled and managed” by the Police Department, “using a selective group of “highly trained archery and/or firearms professionals and after thorough evaluation” of the information compiled by the task force over the nearly three months of work.
The task force has come under increasing pressure recently from animal rights advocates and those who either support the aesthetics of the deer’s presence or who scoff at such a hunting program in a village known more for its golf heritage than its sport shooting history.
That pressure is likely to heighten attention to the council’s discussion of the report. Regardless, task force chairman and council member John Strickland said the deer issue must be addressed.
“From what I have heard these past few months, some selective culling is needed,” he said. “I have come to the conclusion the village needs to manage the herd. I don’t see how the village could avoid considering this.”
The report also calls for a public education program on the use of deer repellents such as Liquid Fence and other measures to ward them off, as well as providing information to residents on the types of deer-resistant plants and flowers to protect landscaping. Another recommendation calls for installing “Deer Crossing” signs in areas where deer-vehicle collisions are more likely, such as along Linden Road.
“It seems to me that this is a reasonable, balanced approach,” Strickland said.
The report will presented to the council at its meeting Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. in the Village Assembly Hall.
The final report has been posted on the village website:
But Strickland cautioned that it would take some time for the council to study the various options for culling.
“Any culling would be extraordinarily well-planned,” Strickland said.
The Deer Management Task Force, appointed by the council Aug. 12, has met weekly since Sept. 3. It has studied a number of options to help deal with deer-related problems, primarily damage to landscaping as well as the potential for more collisions with vehicles if the animal’s population continues to increase.
The culling recommendation came down to information provided by Rupert Medford, a wildlife biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. He said the deer density has reached a point in certain areas that culling is warranted.
“He’s tasked with managing wildlife and protecting the health of the herd,” task force member John Eastman said. “It is not just for killing deer. I lean on him.”
Eastman said reducing the size of the herd might have “a positive impact on some of those other things.”
Medford estimated that the density in the area to be 15 to 29 deer per square mile, which is at a level where culling is needed to maintain the health of the herd, the report says. He estimates that there are 300 deer in the village and that 100 could be taken over a period of several years to prevent over-population.
“Rupert Medford has determined that the density is higher than the carrying capacity of the habitat,” said task force member Michael Black, who helped write that portion of the report.
Black, who is a hunter, said he would prefer an urban archery program, which he said has been implemented in 44 municipalities, instead of using professional sharpshooters.
“I don’t think having sharpshooters in Pinehurst is a good idea,” he said.
But some on the task force have expressed concerns about bow hunting, saying the use of firearms would be more humane. Black said an archery program would be less expensive and just as safe.
Strickland said the report will include detailed information on both archery and firearms for the council to consider.
“I think that it will be helpful for the council to have all that information, how it would be heavily controlled. We would not be talking about open hunting season in Pinehurst.”
Task force member Rob Papp, who worked on the insurance liability portion of the report, said the village could face a lower surcharge on its insurance premiums by using licensed professionals as opposed to allowing regular hunters.
As for the likelihood of more deer-vehicle collisions, “anything we can do to avoid losses, we should do,” he said of managing the size of the herd. He added that culling “is certainly a lot more humane than being hit by a car.”
Eastman added that motorists should exercise caution on the roads now since this is the peak of mating season and deer are more active.
Strickland pointed to a village survey done several weeks ago that found a majority of the 1,215 respondents favor a program that includes public education, “common sense” measures residents can take and selective culling. It found many were concerned about damage deer do to landscaping and the potential for more deer-vehicle collisions.
“It’s a fairly good indication of what people are concerned about,” Strickland said. “It is about a scientific as we can get. The public understands some selective reduction in the herd is needed.”
But some who have attended the task force meetings recently have been critical of the way survey questions were worded and how residents were made aware of it. Village resident Peggy Herman, who opposes any deer culling, urged the task force to recommend another survey before the council votes on whether to implement culling. She said the village has a population of 15,000.
“Next time, ask people specifically if they want to do this,” Herman said of culling. “And be up front: Use the word killing. Call it what it is.”
Strickland reiterated that the 1,215 responses was the most the village has received on any survey. He said it would be up to the council to decide whether to conduct another survey.
While the task force concludes that tick-borne illnesses from deer do not pose an immediate public health threat, it agreed that it is important for residents to be aware of it and that the village should regularly remind them of things to do avoid ticks, which members said are also carried by dogs and cats, not just deer.
The task force ruled out recommending a sterilization or contraceptive program or any attempt to trap and relocate deer, mainly because of the associated higher costs. Task force member Melissa Swarbrick said the state would not authorize a sterilization or contraceptive program. She said that is approved only for an area with a “closed population.”
The task force also decided against proposing fencing as a measure to keep deer out of residents’ yards.
Strickland said the village could begin implementing the public education component almost immediately. He said it could take the council several months to weigh whether to implement culling.
“There is still some work to be done,” he said. “These sorts of questions would be left to the village staff and police department and the Wildlife Resources Commission.”
Police Chief Earl Phipps, who was away attending his mother’s funeral, said at last week’s meeting that he personally opposes culling, but that if it was done, he wanted it tightly controlled.
Swarbrick pointed out that Medford has provided estimated numbers to the village showing the need for culling.
“He does not have an agenda,” she said. “He has a job to do. He is a hunter, but he is also an animal lover.”