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North Ogden leaders — again — debate urban deer issue

By Tim Vandenack - | Jun 24, 2023

Photo supplied

A deer in the backyard of an Ogden home, photographed Jan. 24, 2023.

NORTH OGDEN -- Once again, the issue of deer incursions into North Ogden has emerged as a point of discussion.

Officials, though, have opted not to take any action after consulting with a Utah Division of Wildlife Resources biologist. "It is part of living in a community that borders the wildland," Phil Swanson, a member of the North Ogden City Council, said while addressing the issue at a meeting last week.

Moreover, Swanson noted that not everybody regards urban deer -- an on-and-off point of debate over the years in North Ogden -- with scorn. While some begrudge the animals for the damage they can cause to gardens and other vegetation, others like the periodic appearance of the critters. "Whether or not it's a problem is in the eye of the beholder," Swanson said.

The DWR helps operate an urban deer program with interested Utah locales to help them deal with incursions of the animals. Per the program, the DWR used to relocate deer at a cost of around $2,000 per animal. Now, it's only a "lethal" program, meaning the agency works with participating communities in their efforts to track urban deer and kill them, said DWR biologist Randall McBride, who addressed the City Council on the issue.

The meat from culled animals is given away.

Photo supplied, Brent Taylor

A deer crosses a street near North Ogden City Hall in August 2017. Officials have been debating what to do in light of the seeming growth of urban deer in the city.

Given migratory trends of deer -- not to mention the ever-expanding borders of the cities of the Wasatch Front and the relative ease of finding good greenery to eat in urban areas -- keeping them out of locales altogether is probably impossible. "You're never going to depopulate all of the deer. It's probably not possible because you have that migration," he said.

Indeed, DWR officials don't tell communities whether they should or shouldn't implement urban deer initiatives. They leave that to local leaders based on feedback from their constituents, helping only if assistance is wanted. Only Bountiful and Centerville -- which both sit directly along the mountainous portion of the Wasatch Front -- operate deer-control programs north of the Salt Lake City area.

Bountiful captured 24 deer in 2022 and 40 in 2021, according to a page on the program on the city's website. "The purpose of the plan is not to remove all deer from the city, but to help control the urban mule deer population and its impact on the community," the website reads.

Efforts targeting deer in locales normally go from August through October, though the program in Bountiful extends into December, according to McBride, who helps manage the program. Hunters armed with bows and arrows, and captive bolt pistols used by law enforcement officials, are used to kill the animals.

North Ogden leaders debated the issue previously, in 2017, as urban deer seemed to convert from an issue only in the cold of winter to a year-round thing, wreaking havoc on some fruit and vegetable patches. The city ultimately decided to conduct a deer count to get a gauge of the issue, but from there, concern and interest in acting seemed to peter out.

Swanson understands the annoyance of North Ogden residents whose flower beds or gardens are laid waste to hungry deer. But in his view, the economic impact isn't enough to merit implementation of a program. Significantly, doing away with deer altogether probably isn't a possibility, he added.

McBride said the best deterrent for those wanting to keep deer out of their yards and gardens is an eight-foot fence. The DWR also says a motion-activated sprinkler can help keep the animals away as well as planting "unpalatable vegetation" around gardens.

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