Spike, a Jack Russell terrier, lost a tooth and got a gash on his hind leg when a deer attacked him in Beckie Elgin’s backyard in Ashland. Elgin has seen two such attacks on her dogs recently and wildlife officials are warning people to steer clear of aggressive deer. - Alisha Jucevic

Ashland resident sees another deer attack

The deer hanging around Beckie Elgin's Ashland backyard aren't so cute and cuddly.

Her 11-year-old Jack Russell terrier, Spike, suffered a lost tooth and gash on his leg in a scuffle with one black-tailed doe a few weeks ago, and Elgin narrowly escaped being run over by another fearless doe Wednesday, she said.

"It was scary," said Elgin. "For the first time I was really concerned about my own safety."

And rightly so, said Steven Niemela, a wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Central Point.

"I would recommend leaving the area," he said. "If you're trying to defend your dog, I understand, but that's where people often get into trouble."

Elgin said she was in her backyard Wednesday evening with Spike, and her daughter's 2-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback, Rhaja, when the dogs started chasing a lone deer that was eating apples from a tree in the yard.

The deer didn't back down and instead pinned the 70-pound Rhaja against a fence, and started stomping and head-butting the dog.

"The deer really had her cornered," Elgin said. "I ran over waving my arms, yelling, because I thought it was going to hurt her ... ."

She spooked the doe over a fence to the front of the house, but it then turned around and stared at her while she was still waving her arms to scare it away, she said.

Instead of running off, the deer jumped back into the yard and chased the dogs again. Missing Elgin by a few inches, she said, the deer plowed through her garden fence and smacked into the side of the house before hopping the back fence and leaving.

She said Wednesday was the second instance in two weeks of deer attacking her family's dogs in the backyard. The first instance was with Spike, which warranted a trip to the veterinarian's office.

"I'm just perplexed. I don't know what to do," Elgin said. "We can't eradicate them simply because they are an inconvenience "… but we need to find a way to coexist."

Elgin has lived on the 600 block of Roca Street for about four years, and she said the deer problem seems to have gotten worse over that span. Behind her house is an forested area; the family commonly sees foxes, raccoons, wild turkeys and deer rummaging around the cover of madrone and scattered fir trees there, she said.

Niemela said the Central Point ODFW office gets 10 to 15 calls each summer from people reporting aggressive deer, mostly from Ashland.

"These urban deer have no problem acting aggressive towards us, because they no longer see us as predators," he said. "They watch us every day, and seeing no threat, get habituated."

Niemela said deer, usually only does, become more aggressive from about the middle of June to the middle of July, because they are caring for their fawns. Even if a doe doesn't have a fawn one year, its protective instincts will sometimes kick in, he said, and that can lead to aggressive behavior.

"But that's not really the problem," he said. "They are habituated to the urban environment, and probably too numerous."

He said that problem has taken decades to develop, and will take "a long time," to fix.

"There is no silver bullet for this one," he said. "I know the city is working on it, but just because of the nature of the problem it's a difficult issue to solve."

Niemela said ODFW doesn't have much control over the deer population within Ashland, because it has no means to regulate it. On rare occasions, he said, the department will euthanize a particularly troublesome animal within city limits.

Niemela said the best thing to do with aggressive deer is to leave them alone, or call the police if a deer acts overly threatening.

A count of city deer is planned for mid-October and city officials said they are investigating how other cities are dealing with burgeoning urban deer populations.

In Helena, Mont., police have trapped and killed 400 deer with bolt guns in the past two years. The deer are processed at a butcher shop and the venison is given to local food pantries, the Helena Independent Record reported earlier this year.

The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission approved the action to deal with an urban deer population in Helena that was projected to reach 1,800 animals this year if no action was taken.

Elgin is not advocating such drastic measures.

"I'm just glad that everything turned out OK," said Elgin. "I don't want to see the deer get hurt either "… but something needs to be done."

For now, Elgin and her family are relying on a reminder sign she posted on the door to her backyard.

"Check for killer deer."

Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email

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