White-tailed deer may soon be coming to a yard near you.
Don McGowan, senior wildlife biologist with the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and a native of Dunwoody, has tracked the trend.
“Twenty years ago, you wouldn’t find a deer in these areas. Within the last 10 years, deer have gradually, but steadily moved more inside I-285, including Brookhaven and interior portions of Buckhead,” he said.
Statewide, the deer number close to a million, and although their local population statistics are anecdotal, McGowan said there is no problem. Seven years ago, however, a DNR report cited the management of deer in urban areas as one the most challenging issues.
Experts say the deer are more plentiful because they’re smart and adaptable.
They’re moving south for two reasons: Fewer hunters and more of their favorite food. What they like to eat is freshly watered lawns and vegetation.
That’s what Gordon Certain’s wife found out the hard way in the community garden of the Blue Heron Nature Preserve in Buckhead.
“She noticed the tops of her bean plants were gone! She thought it was rabbits, but I said it’s too high for rabbits to get to. Next day, sure enough, a deer was reported right there,” he said.
Certain, president of the North Buckhead Civic Association, says his members have seen at least five different deer several times since early summer.
“I haven’t heard any complaints, except about the occasional copperhead or coyote. But a lot of our people are amazed at the wildlife in such a built-out neighborhood,” he said.
Some of the other animals spotted have been foxes, minks, beavers, birds of prey, wild turkeys, snapping turtles and, of course, raccoons and opossums.
“The deer must be really careful, because they don’t get run over by cars,” he added.
Unfortunately, DNR officials say that the greatest and most common threat to deer, by far, is the car.
Earlier this month, Joe Seconder was riding his bike in Sandy Springs when he saw a deer that may have been hit by a car, then shot and left by the side of the road.
“I see deer almost every time I ride. I think they’re beautiful creatures, but they’re growing out of check. They have no natural predators, so I think we should have wolves,” he said.
DNR encourages hunting as the best way to control deer numbers, especially where pockets of overabundance exist. Until Oct. 12 and then again from Jan. 2 through 31, archery hunting is allowed in most of Fulton County and in DeKalb County.
State surveys show about 12,000 deer were harvested last season.
But some Sandy Springs residents believe the practice is cruel.
“This issue came up at a neighborhood meeting, and even my neighbors who hunt were appalled to discover that it’s legal to bow hunt in Sandy Springs,” said Debra Berger. “All ethical issues aside, the practice is dangerous.”
For more information on hunting and deterring deer, visit http://www.georgiawildlife.org/hunting/game-management#Deer_Management.