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Deer terrorizes family in Ashland

Fall has arrived and along with it reports of aggressive deer in Ashland. For one family in Ashland, that aggression has turned into an ongoing threat from one particular deer.

Alex Strouf says in the most recent incident, she was charged by the deer while walking her 3-week-old baby and two Labrador retrievers near North Mountain Park. While the deer stopped short, it wasn’t the first time the same deer has charged her, she said, noting it has stalked her on four different occasions, even coming up her driveway. It’s stalked her husband twice, and charged them both on separate occasions.

“I just got big and loud, and it got within 10 feet of us,” Strouf said. “I put myself between the doe and the baby and it wasn’t backing down, so I slowly backed away and eventually left.”

Strouf said she has reason to believe one of her neighbors may be feeding the deer, an illegal act in Ashland, according to Ashland Police Deputy Chief Warren Hensman.

According to both Hensman and Mark Vargas, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) watershed district manager, feeding wildlife is one of the most common causes for aggression.

“When there’s an area where people befriend the deer, they lose their fear of humans,” Vargas said.

He said there’s no real solution to the problem, which has been documented in Ashland for more than 30 years. Deer can become aggressive for several reasons, including: protecting their young, especially during fawning season from May to July; during mating season from October through December and around dogs, particularly small dogs.

Vargas said when deer lose their fear of people they can become territorial and aggressive.

“Sometimes, they’re just mean,” Vargas said. “It takes the change of the whole community. There’s always one neighbor that likes the deer. It’s hard to get everyone on the same page.”

Strouf said when she called the police, they told her there was nothing they could do because the city of Ashland does not relocate deer. The city also does not euthanize deer unless they’re injured and can’t walk.

“When do deer take precedent over people?” Strouf asked. “Unfortunately, we won’t be walking to our favorite park anymore. We’ll have to drive somewhere now.”

The city’s website addresses the issue: “Unfortunately, the City is severely constrained in its ability to address the deer problem. In Oregon, the management of deer populations is the exclusive purview of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Ashland for its part has done what we are legally permitted to do by adopting an ordinance that prohibits the feeding of deer and allowing property owners to construct eight foot high deer fencing.”

Ashland resident Angela Decker said her dog was attacked by a deer near their home in the Railroad District in July. The deer stomped the dog and caused extensive injuries. She said the vet found gravel and other foreign materials inside the dog’s wounds.

“It was touch and go for a while,” Decker said. “It was pretty traumatizing.”

She said there’s one deer in particular in the neighborhood that everyone is wary of.

“Deer should fear people more than they do. It creates conflict,” Vargas said. “Deer cause nuisances; there’s no great solution.”

He did suggest a few guidelines to follow:

Walk in groups, not alone.

Leave small dogs at home if possible.

If a deer does become aggressive, back away slowly while facing it. Don’t turn your back on it.

Defend yourself if it attacks. Hit it with a rock or a stick.

Report it.

Don’t befriend the deer. Always keep a distance.

Don’t feed deer or leave water out.

“I would like to walk with my dogs and my infant child without being fearful,” Strouf said. “I want to see change.”

To report aggressive wildlife, call ODFW at 503-947-6000 or the non-emergency police line at 541-488-2211. To report someone feeding or taming wildlife, call the non-emergency police line.

Contact reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

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