A discussion that began months ago picked up once more in Hudson Oaks as the issue of the deer population in the city came up at Thursday’s council meeting.
More than a year ago, a representative from the Texas Parks and Wildlife did a brief study to estimate a count of the deer in Hudson Oaks. He determined that though the city has many deer living in its limits, it had not reached the point of being a large issue.
After a number of reported incidents with the deer, the city again called Texas Parks and Wildlife and, this time, did a more detailed study over two months. Hudson Oaks Police Chief Brandon Mayberry also took part in the study.
For a city the size of Hudson Oaks and with its level of development, it is recommended that there be no more than 30-40 deer. But the study showed there are at least 80 to 120 deer.
And those are only the ones that revealed themselves.
"We do have a problem," Mayberry said. "We’ve had it for years and it just keeps growing."
That problem has led to an increase of about eight reported deer and vehicle accidents a year, though there were likely others that were not reported by residents. Citizens also have struggled with finding landscaping that the deer will not consume.
With such a large herd that is local and not just passing through, there is also a risk of disease.
Resident David Falk said he did not report the car accident with a deer that caused $2,500 damage to his vehicle. Living in the Diamond Oaks division, Falk said he feels like they live at ground zero of the deer herd.
"We’ve got to first stop the growth," Falk said. "We’ve experienced an explosion."
Mayberry said that explosion in the deer population is likely caused by the loss of their own habitat due to development, the loss of predators for that same reason and also supplemental feeding by residents.
Citizen Jude Olson said it’s important the city seek a balance in the deer population while not trying to eradicate them altogether.
"We moved from the city to the country," Olson said, "and the wildlife is an attraction."
But she also pointed out that finding a way to manage the deer population is also important for the sake of pilots using the Parker County Airport, where many deer can be found on the runway.
Council member Marc Povero, himself a pilot, said taht after the sun goes down, he has his wife come to the runway with a flashlight to make sure there is no danger from the deer.
Last year, the city decided not to ban feeding the deer, which encourages them to remain in the area and also to them being comfortable around people but now the city is reconsidering such a ban.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife can be called on to help ease the problem through birth control, trapping and relocating or processing and also organizing hunts but before they can do anything, the city would have to put an ordinance banning supplemental feeding in place.
Unfortunately, each solution will also be expensive, some as much as more than $100 per deer. High fencing could be another option but would cost up to $15,000 per mile of fence.
"Our problem is just going to get worse," said council member Tom Fitzpatrick of the issue if it goes unchecked.
With the problem recognized, the city will now seek a way to stop the growth.
"This is an ongoing issue," Mayberry said. "There is no magic bullet."
By the February council meeting, an ordinance banning feeding the deer will likely be considered.