State Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, apparently will introduce a bill during the 2017 Legislature that would give communities a way to control exploding deer populations. Despite loud objections from members of the community that brought the problem to his attention, the idea makes sense.
Deer, as many gardeners know, learn to live around humans extraordinarily well. They can leap tall fences, and they move through areas most wild animals avoid. Thus, deer are seen all over town — even on Wall Street in downtown Bend.
Hansell, who represents far northeast Oregon, recently asked his constituents for their ideas for legislation in this session. The mayor of Joseph, a community of just over 1,000 in Wallowa County, brought up deer, specifically deer inside the small city.
The senator did some checking and found the problem isn’t limited to Joseph. According to an article he wrote for the Wallowa County Chieftain, he discovered larger cities, including Ashland, also have too many deer for comfort.
Hansell went to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which helped him craft a legislative concept — the precursor of a bill — to deal with the situation.
The measure is straightforward. If it becomes law, a pilot program would involve one community that could ask ODFW to determine if deer have reached “public nuisance” numbers. The community selected for the program would have to ban feeding and other deer-attracting activities. That done, the local government could either remove the deer or find someone to remove a specific number of animals. Assuming they were taken alive, they’d be slaughtered and their meat donated to a food bank for distribution. Their hides and antlers would be sold.
Joseph residents so loudly object to the idea that the City Council has backed away from the proposal, but Hansell has promised that will not be the end of it. That’s good.
It might even encourage those who feed the animals to give up a practice wildlife experts say does more harm than good.