Ocean View council discusses deer population reduction

At their monthly workshop this week, the Ocean View council discussed deer management options for the town.

Joe Rogerson, deer and furbearer biologist for the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife, attended the workshop and asked to briefly hear about the town’s issues related to the deer population.

“Over the past two years, we started getting more and more calls, concerns from citizens regarding the abundance of deer,” explained Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin. He added that deer-car collisions are fairly common and that there have been a number of cases in which local citizens have been severely impacted by Lyme disease, which is transmitted by deer ticks.

Rogerson said that reducing the deer population would not have a noticeable impact on Lyme disease in the area. The ticks also feed on animals other than deer, including humans.

“I don’t want residents here to get a false sense of hope that that’s the kind of outcome that they’re going to see,” he said.

As to methods of reducing the deer population, Rogerson said that reintroducing predators would not be a viable option, nor would the use of fertility-control drugs or deer sterilization, due to high cost.

“From a long-term approach, what we have right now is not good enough to be a sensible option,” he explained.

Rogerson also said that chemical deterrents may be used, but their effectiveness decreases over time.

“It doesn’t do anything for your overabundance of deer,” he said. “It can be not too expensive, but you have to reapply after it rains… The problem with them is more and more residents put them on, and it’s not like they won’t stop eating. They eat stuff that tastes bad all the time.”

As for hunting, Rogerson said that has proven to be an effective way to reduce deer population, both by actually killing deer within the community and scaring off remaining deer.

McLaughlin said that, currently, it is illegal to discharge a firearm within town limits; however, there aren’t town ordinances restricting archery hunting.

Rogerson said that Delaware law permits archery hunting with both vertical bows and crossbows, but it must not be within 50 yards of a structure unless they have been given permission by the owner.

“It’s 50 yards to give the ability to private landowners inside of some of these urban and suburban settings to manage deer on their property,” he said. “You could argue it would be safer if the homeowner was hunting along the house, as all shots would be taken away from the household.”

“We have a number of parcels that could certainly stay within that 50 yards,” said McLaughlin.

Rogerson said hunting can be problem if a deer is shot and expires on another property. The hunter would have to legally get permission from that property owner in order to remove the deer.

Rogerson noted that archery season in Delaware is from Sept. 1 through the end of January and that if a homeowner has a sufficiently large property, they could potentially hunt with archery equipment or allow for others to come on the property to hunt.

He added that Delaware law says that landowners and homeowners are not held liable for any mishap that could occur on their property while a hunter is there, if they are allowing them to hunt free of charge on the property.

“The onus is on the hunter,” he said. “It’s up to the hunter to follow all the state restrictions.”

He said that hunting, with firearms or archery, could be the town’s best option for controlling the deer population.

“Hunting will do two things for you guys. It’ll obviously reduce deer. But also, if you simply have hunters out in the field, it will disturb these animals enough that your areas will not be refuge for them to just pile into as the hunting season goes on.”

Rogerson said that, with the town’s code not restricting archery hunting, those with larger properties could start hunting deer tomorrow.

“I think getting that information out to the community and to the residents here in town, knowing what freedom and flexibility they have, would help. To have the options, that if they can come up with an agreement that ‘you, you and you are all within 50 yards, if a hunter is going to go over there, we’re going to allow it.’”

McLaughlin asked if the Town could impose regulations requiring hunters to check in with the police department before hunting. Roger said that the Town could certainly be more restrictive than the State if it chose to do so.

Town Councilman Bob Lawless asked if there was a way for the Town to determine the effectiveness of the hunt.

Rogerson responded that it wouldn’t be measurable by number of deer killed but could be measured by a reduction of calls to the Town about deer population or a lower number of deer-car collisions.

He added that he felt the best thing for Ocean View could be just getting the word out to residents that they do have the opportunity to hunt deer in town limits.

“Many of them probably don’t realize archery hunting can legally already take place. If you don’t charge a fee, you aren’t held liable for anything. It’s 50 yards to archery hunt. So if some of you guys are too close together, if you talk to your neighbors, if you know a guy who’s an archery hunter, he or she can go out and bow-hunt,” he said. “Legally, there’s nothing restricting an archery hunter from going out now. It sounds like many in the community don’t recognize that that is the viable option for them.”

Lawless said the Town could promote archery hunting to help bring visitors to the town.

“It could be advantageous to our town to bring people here as a destination,” he said. “This is another opportunity for recreation that exists within our town.”

Following the meeting, six deer were spotted outside of town hall.