By Vickie Aldous
for the Mail Tribune
Concerned about Ashland’s urban deer population, the City Council unanimously directed the city’s legal department to draft an ordinance that would ban the intentional feeding of wildlife.
“I think we do have a problem with deer in this town,” said Councilman Dennis Slattery. “We need some enforceable rules — some dos and don’ts out there to help mitigate this problem.”
Council members emphasized any ban should focus on intentional feeding, not inadvertent feeding caused by a person growing flowers or a garden, for example.
Council members will have to consider whether the ordinance will address feeding wildlife in general, whether it will specifically ban salt licks and whether it will specifically allow bird feeding, among other issues.
Local scientists and residents who came to speak at the council’s Tuesday meeting supported a feeding ban.
Michael Parker, chairman of Southern Oregon University’s Biology Department, said wildlife agencies across the nation advise against feeding wildlife.
“The No. 1 recommendation for minimizing negative impacts between humans and wildlife is don’t feed the buggers,” he said.
Parker said other cities that have adopted wildlife feeding bans haven’t encountered significant enforcement problems.
He said people who feed deer are actually harming them. Deer lose their fear of humans and cars, resulting in more collisions.
Retired SOU biology professor Frank Lang said deer congregate around feeding sites and spread diseases to each other.
Banning deer feeding may not reduce the number of deer in town, however.
Parker said one study found that the deer population rose 34 percent after a feeding ban was implemented. However, car vs. deer collisions fell by 25 percent.
While some residents have proposed bow hunting of deer in town, Parker said he doesn’t believe that would work.
“The number of people to hunt deer would have to be huge,” he said, noting that deer have easy access into Ashland from surrounding forests.
Parker and Lang were among those who organized an urban deer count in Ashland last fall that yielded a tally of 187 deer. Organizers canceled a planned deer count this spring after controversy arose over whether the numbers would be used to justify urban deer hunting. Organizers have said the deer counting was meant purely to provide scientific information.
Roca Street resident Alison Laughlin said deer are becoming more aggressive.
“I support a ban on deliberate feeding and education on nondeliberate feeding,” she said, noting that people need to be mindful of what they plant. “The problem will get worse if we do nothing.”
Scenic Drive resident Don Rhodes said his neighbor persists in feeding deer even though he has talked to her many times about the harm it causes. He said 18 deer have gone back and forth through his yard several times a day, checking for the goat food she sets out.
Rhodes said the deer feeding ban is a moderate proposal that will help protect people and deer.
“People who like deer should be supporting this,” he said.
Slattery had a clear message for anyone who feeds a deer.
“You have done it no good,” he said.
Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 541-479-8199 or email@example.com.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.