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A fawn drinks from Ashland Creek in Lithia Park. Alisha Jucevic | Daily Tidings - Alisha Jucevic

Ashland plans to count deer

SOU Professor of Biology Michael Parker is helping to devise a plan for counting deer during a half-hour window during the early morning hours of Oct. 13.

The count will help establish a baseline number for the deer population in Ashland. It will be repeated in the spring.

Over time, fall and spring counts could be used to develop a long-term database of deer population trends, Parker said.

"One of the main purposes is to start gathering some real data about deer in the city. There are no data," he said. "There's so much speculation going on. We want to see if we can use citizen volunteers to collect meaningful data."

The city will be divided into seven to nine sections, with volunteers walking through the different areas filling out data sheets on what they observe, Parker said.

Keeping the count at 30 minutes will help ensure that deer aren't double-counted, he said.

"We don't know what will happen with the first deer census. It may be a complete flop," Parker said, but noted that he thinks the count will be worth the effort for any data it can uncover.

While many people enjoy seeing deer in town, others are upset that the animals eat gardens and landscaping. Some deer also have attacked dogs and people, possibly because does with fawns have felt threatened.

Parker said while discussions about deer are common in Ashland, people don't know whether the urban deer population has increased dramatically in recent years, whether the deer distribution in neighborhoods has changed over time, if more fawns are being born in town, or if the number of sick and injured deer is on the rise.

Parker said if Ashland does discover it has a booming deer population, there's not much city officials can do about the matter. But he said one positive step could be to adopt an ordinance banning the feeding of wildlife.

Ashland Mayor John Stromberg — who sowed the seed for the deer census when he asked if data could be gathered on the deer population — said city staff are researching ordinances in other towns that ban the feeding of wildlife.

"I'll at least bring it up for the City Council to consider," Stromberg said.

— Vickie Aldous

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