Friday, February 29, 2008

TEXAS NEWS: Over 300 Deer Per Square Mile at Kerrville Schreiner Park--Officials Consider "Doing Something About It"

The white-tailed deer population in Kerrville Schreiner Park has grown too big, prompting the city to consider taking actions.

Options include managed hunts for bowhunters, relocating spikes and does elsewhere in the state, and/or trapping deer and having them processed for meat.

The park’s deer capacity is 65. “Sixty-five is a stretch for us, and we’re at 300 right now,” said Kristine Ondrias, the city’s director of general services.

The 38 “exotics” and buck deer in the park would be left alone, she told the Kerrville City Council on Tuesday.

According to Mike Krueger, district leader for the Edwards Plateau Wildlife District of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, the deer have overgrazed the park’s 517 acres, leaving insufficient vegetation or habitat.

Ondrias said deformities are showing up in the deer herd, such as mutated hind quarters and curved hooves, and species are “getting smaller and smaller.”

She said vehicular accidents involving deer along highways near the park are a problem, as are aggressive deer during the breeding season.

Property owners in the Oak Hollow and Riverhills areas have complained.

The goal of the wildlife management program is to restore the balance of the park system and manage a healthy population of deer.

“The public won’t notice much at all,” Ondrias said of a reduced deer herd, “just that we have healthier, bigger deer.”

The managed hunts for bowhunters — the least cost intensive scenario for the city — would be offered three days in December. Qualifying individuals would have to attend a bowhunters education course.

Councilman Chuck Coleman asked about managed hunts in the park at other times of the year. Ondrias said they would be a possibility through special TPWD permits.

Another option for controlling the deer population is for the city is to replace 17,000 feet of fence in Kerrville Schreiner Park, which Krueger advocates, to “knock down the population of deer.” But the taller fence would cost about $350,000.

Ondrias said hiring a professional to trap and transport the deer would cost $40,000 or $150 per deer. She said the city should go after grants available for trapping and releasing deer.

The drawback of relocating deer is that the process is stressful on the animals and up to 60 percent of them don’t survive the relocation process, Ondrias said.

She said meat from deer trapped in the park and then “processed” or killed, would be distributed to charities in Kerr County.

The council is to consider a resolution endorsing city staff’s recommendations at its March 11 meeting.


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