Town ponders best way to co-exist with deer

This young deer was brave enough to come up on Coupeville resident Frances Blue’s deck to eat her flowers. Photo provided by Frances Blue.

Some of Coupeville’s four-legged residents are a bit ornery these days, and in some cases causing a ruckus.

Mayor Molly Hughes told the council that she’s received several calls from residents complaining about the deer in town.

Complaints ranged from reports deer are eating plants and destroying property to complaints that people are feeding them.

The problems surrounding deer aren’t new to town and they’re complaints council members said they’ve all heard.

Councilwoman Jackie Henderson said she once counted as many as 16 deer passing between her and a neighbor’s houses.

Councilwoman Pat Powell said she just pulled two plants from her yard that were destroyed by deer.

“We have a herd of 11 that hang out next to Town Hall,” Hughes said. “I’ve actually looked into if there’s a sterilization program for deer and there is.”

“It’s $4,000 a deer, and they don’t guarantee it. So I’m not really interested in that.”

Hughes said she talked with state Department of Fish and Wildlife officials, but there aren’t many options for dealing with deer. Hunting is heavily restricted on the island, limited to certain county and privately owned properties.

“We can’t shoot them because you can’t fire a gun in town limits,” Hughes said. “It’s basically the cycle of life. They grow in population and then something like a disease kills a bunch of them off.”

“When’s that going to happen?” Powell asked jokingly.

At the same time, the council pointed out that many people in town love having the deer around, and so do tourists.

“Langley has their rabbits, we have our deer,” said Councilwoman Lisa Bernhardt.

Commenters on the Whidbey News-Times Face-book page shared photos and stories about their own deer encounters.

Frances Blue said she caught a young buck that was brave enough to come onto her deck to eat the flowers out of her pots.

Craig Trujillo shared another curious buck that comes right up to his sliding glass door to stare at him.

Others said they planted vegetables right next to their house, only to have them disappear overnight.

Hughes said it’s really a matter of educating the public on ways to live with the deer.

A few years ago, former Mayor Nancy Conard organized a community meeting do just that.

Residents who probably should have attended that meeting, including the town residents who feed the deer, didn’t attend.

Council members agreed it is time to try and reach out to those residents again.

A meeting is in the works, but a date hasn’t been set, Hughes said.

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