Dueling deer petitions: Cull the herd or protect them in Port Townsend?
This 3-month-old male deer awaits Ken Minish's snack in Port Townsend. -- Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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Is it time to cull the Port Townsend deer population, or should they be protected as charming aspects of nature?
Dueling petitions have been presented online, the first by Port Townsend resident Fran Post at http://tinyurl.com/ptdeer-1.
Post calls on the City Council to “cull and manage the invasive deer herd because it has become too large for the health of the herd and the health of the community.”
Said Post from her home Friday: “If you watch the deer, there is always a mother and a set of twins, and the next year, the twins grow up and have their own twins.
“They have exceeded the capacity of our region and are eating plants they have never eaten [before], which means they do not have enough food.”
A second petition, posted at http://tinyurl.com/ptdeer-2 in reaction to Post's efforts, expresses love for the local wildlife and says “we have to stop this concept of 'deer genocide' before it starts. The Final Deer Solution must be crushed out before its [sic] too late.”
The author of the petition is listed as Tim James, with no hometown given.
James did not return a request for comment Friday that was left on the petition website.
Both petitions have drawn interest, Post's largely from Port Townsend residents, while most of those signing James' petition are from other states or nations.
Post's petition, hosted by Change.org, had drawn 187 signatures as of Saturday afternoon.
James' petition, hosted by the Care2 petition site, had drawn 131 signatures by Saturday afternoon.
“This proves what we learned in fifth-grade science class: that every action has an equal and opposite reaction,” said Far Reaches Farm owner Kelly Dodson, who has suffered a considerable crop loss to deer and has signed Post's petition.
The culinary habits of the wandering deer can hurt a business, according to Dodson, who lost rare plants planned for sale when deer jumped his fence and ate them.
Any action by the city now is unlikely, according to Development Services Director Rick Sepler.
“This hasn't risen to a level of concern for the council, and if it did, our options would be somewhat limited,” Sepler said.
“This is a challenge because our area is a food source for deer and raccoons, and there are no natural predators,” he added.
“We also don't have a singular herd, so they can't be easily controlled, and if we try to relocate them, they will come back.”
Sepler also talked about the cost of culling the deer.
“The city has a lot of competing demands,” he said. “The question is whether this will displace other issues that are already identified.”
Post acknowledges that action would cost money and doesn't think the city would have to foot the bill.
“There is a community in New York state called Hastings on Hudson that is facing the same problem, and the estimate was that it would cost around $30,000 to develop a program,” she said.
“I think if we make people aware of this, we may be able to get some private donors and get it done without the city's help.”
Hunting is not allowed inside the city limit.
Those who signed Post's petition say the deer are aggressive, some look ill, and they eat everything in sight.
“The size of the herd is out of balance,” said Tim Lawson of Port Townsend.
“Plus I'd prefer to be able to grow without having to spend to create a deer-proof zone.”
Said Kate Dwyer of Port Townsend: “I am a landscape designer old enough to remember the good old days when we could grow so much more.”
Barbara Lubert of Port Townsend said: “Deer seem aggressive, unhealthy and are damaging plants. They are a danger to traffic.”
Some look sick, said Jeanmarie Morelli of Port Townsend.
“Several years ago, one sick-looking deer sat on my property and died the next day. There are mangy-looking ones with fur loss and malignant growth by the mouth,” she said.
“They are a nuisance and a health hazard,” said Irma Millard of Port Townsend.
“Instead of an annual fish fry, we should have a venison roast for the town.”
James' petition drew only a couple of comments.
Among them was Kayleigh Harter, who said she lives near Port Townsend.
“It's a joy to see deer wandering freely through town when I visit there,” Harter said.
“I've always been impressed that the locals seem to respect the local deer and take measures to ensure their safety.
“Can anyone tell me why this euthanization has been proposed?”
Carrie Blair of Port Townsend, who also signed James' petition, said in an interview that “people come here for the beauty, but they want to get rid of the natural parts of the town because it is inconvenient for them.
“This is irritating to me.”
Ken Minish, who lives on Cass Street a few blocks from the Jefferson County Courthouse, opposes deer control and feeds the deer.
Minish, 53, who acts as a caregiver for his 84-year-old father, has developed a relationship with the deer and has given several of them names.
“I don't believe a deer will hurt anyone. They'll run away from a 5-pound dog,” he said.
“This is all about telling people what to do with their own property and because people are trying to protect their expensive plants.”
Post said no solution she has heard so far, such as shooting deer or sterilizing them, is perfect.
She said she hopes some other plans will emerge.
“My goal for the petition was to get the conversation going,” she said.
“It is my experience that when you talk about a problem, a group wisdom takes over, and there are solutions that emerge that you never would have considered.”
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or email@example.com.
Last modified: August 31. 2013 7:30PM