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Deer catch-and-release not a viable option

I just read your article about potential for killing deer in cities like Ashland as a solution to the problem. It says trapping and releasing the deer elsewhere outside of town isn’t an option. But what’s the reasoning? Cost?

— V.F., via email

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted recently in favor of a pilot program giving cities the option to cull their nuisance urban deer herds by killing them, either by shooting or live-trapping and euthanizing them.

The language does not call for trapping and hauling them out of town for release.

The reason is simple: Language in a 2017 law passed by the Oregon Legislature spelled out very specifically that the nuisance deer can be killed under the program but not captured and released.

That’s what the bill said, and ODFW is bound to create the rules putting that law into action. But the bill contained that specific language based on input from ODFW biologists.

“Truthfully, lethal removal is about the only option you really have that’s not only effective, but it’s one of your lower-cost, least-problem solutions,” says Trevor Watson, an ODFW biologist in Klamath Falls who headed the group that wrote the language for the pilot project.

One of the biggest red flags for trapping and relocating deer, especially city deer, is the risk of spreading diseases to migratory herds — or simply failing to make a difference, Watson says.

City deer are known to have higher rates of diseases, often associated with their unnatural densities and nose-to-nose contact at illegal feeding and watering sites.

Watson says the agency is not interested in long-distance catch and release of these deer, and instances of trapping them and taking them a short distance for release doesn’t work because the animals’ habituation to people sees them go back to where they were.

“We really do not support moving them long distances, however. To keep them from moving back into town, you must move them long distances,” Watson says.

And the reasons these deer have become nuisances — relying on humans for food — make them very poor candidates to suddenly change their ways and survive on their own after release, Watson says.

The Legislature agreed and wrote the bill strictly for killing these deer, should cities decide that final option is right for them in this strictly voluntary program.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.