North Ogden officials consider count to pinpoint scope of urban deer problem

Thursday , November 16, 2017 - 5:00 AM

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner Staff

NORTH OGDEN — Before launching an initiative to deal with the urban deer that prowl the backyards of North Ogden, eating homegrown fruits and veggies, officials here want to know whether, in fact, they have a problem.

To that end, the North Ogden City Council on Wednesday directed Mayor Brent Taylor to draft a plan calling for a deer count aimed at helping pinpoint the scope of the problem in the city. Council members tentatively indicated willingness to pay up to $3,000 for the study and will formally decide whether to launch the deer count when Taylor brings back a proposed plan of action, possibly by year’s end.

“Without data, I’m reluctant to do anything,” Councilman Phillip Swanson said.

But if the deer count is carried out and the numbers show “we need to do a hunt, we do a hunt. At least we’ll have some good data to go on,” he continued.

Aside from hunting deer to thin their numbers — a prospect that worries some — officials have debated implementing a relocation program in conjunction with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. That program would entail catching the deer alive and removing them from North Ogden.

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City leaders and residents have been debating possible action to manage the urban deer population, gradually edging higher into the mountains as it grows, for several months, at least. Anecdotal reports, Taylor said, indicate increasing numbers of the critters inside city limits year-round, not just in the winter, chomping on fruit trees, dashing through backyards and even getting hit by cars on city streets.

The mayor indicated tentative support for action to deal with the deer, fearing that if left unchecked, they’ll wreak havoc on the remaining farms and orchards within city limits, prompting exasperated owners of the operations to sell their land to developers. Such ag operations, he said, are “one of the great things of North Ogden.”

But it’s a touchy subject, and members of the public speaking out at Wednesday’s meeting offered mixed thoughts on the notion of killing or forcibly removing the animals from city limits.

Marcea Owen offered sympathetic words: “My deer have names and I watch and study nature from them,” she said. “To me, the skunks are a little bit more of a problem than the deer.”

Sara Fawson — an incoming council member, according to unofficial tallies from municipal voting last week — acknowledged that deer may have deeper roots in the area than humans do, a point made by many deer defenders. Still, the population is larger than it would be, due to to the presence of food sources brought by humans — farmland and orchards.

Dave Meents said the city should do nothing and expressed concern at the notion of an injured deer, shot but not killed by an archer, stumbling onto his property. Officials have also discussed implementing an archery program to thin the number of deer.

Similarly, Curt Fuller, mulling the notion of a program to hunt deer, said “the last thing” he wants to see is a hunter next door, searching for the animals.

North Ogden City Attorney Jon Call said most cities that allow hunting of deer to thin their ranks — governed by DWR guidelines — only let specially trained hunters track the animals. Only Logan permits use of firearms, he said, while other cities tap archers.

Similarly, the DWR guidelines restrict the ability to hunt the animals near homes, without homeowner permission, Call said. The net effect is that hunting of urban deer typically occurs on a city’s periphery or within large parks or other wooded areas, away from homes.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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