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Austin Officials Considering Deer Birth Control
Birth control for deer. That's one of the recommendations the Austin Animal Advisory Commission is handing over to the city. The deer working group was created about a year ago to help control the large populations of deer, especially in the 78758 and 78731 area codes.
Most neighbors in Northwest Hills said they're all for the contraception idea because they've already tried virtually everything else. From six foot fences that the deer now easily jump over to ugly metal wires that surround their gardens.
"We created this fence so we could reclaim this half of the yard," said Brent Muth who has lived in Northwest Hills for 16 years.
The deer not only tear apart yards, Muth said they've even torn apart relationships. He thinks his next door neighbor still feeds the deer and he doesn't like it.
"There's some animosity. I think, definitely," he said. "It's unfortunate because neighbors should be able to have common ground and come over for a cup of coffee. But it's not going to happen."
Other neighbors like Marcia Manor told us the deer bring her happiness.
"I like to watch them because I'm in this wheelchair and I don't get out much," she explained. "I just like looking at the pretty deer. They’re so beautiful!"
One thing Manor and Muth agree on, however, is that there are far too many deer in their neighborhood.
"You learn to live with them," said David Lundstedt with the Austin Animal Advisory Commission. "What we learned is you can do it. It takes a little work, but it is possible."
Since Austin is a no-kill city, Lundstedt has spent the last year working with his team to create a humane deer plan that focuses on co-existence. From more education to traffic and enforcement changes to birth control.
"It's basically darting the deer with a drug that would sterilize them," explained Lundstedt.
He told us the contraceptive darts are still years away from happening in Austin. They would need FDA, city and state approval.
Muth and Manor both said they'd back the idea.
"You have to keep trying things because it's dangerous," Muth said. "We have a school over here and deer run across the street and cars have to swerve."
"I think that's a good idea to a point," explained Manor. "But then we'll kill them all and they won't have their babies."
Next month, the city council expects to hear all the recommendations and vote on their approval.
If any of them are approved, they'll be paid for with taxpayer money. But the commission admits, at this point, they don't have a price tag of how much the recommendations would cost.
Austin Animal Advisory Commissions' recommendations to the Public Health and Human Services Subcommittee:
• Create a humane, non-lethal, city-wide deer conflict management plan that emphasizes tolerance and co-existence with deer and other wildlife
• Develop and promote the plan through public education and awareness using the City’s web site and all other information distribution outlets available to the City
• Establish a process to periodically review and update the plan as necessary
• Consolidate and transfer community deer education/outreach efforts to the Parks and Recreation Department from the Health & Human Services Department’s Rodent and Vector Program
• Identify streets that need additional signage, speed monitoring, lighting and warning devices
• Modify the City’s web site to include the policy and general information for all wildlife and utilize the Austin Animal Advisory Commission’s Deer Working Group as a resource for deer information
• Transfer enforcement of the Intentional Feeding of Deer Ordinance to the City’s Code Compliance Department from the Health & Human Services Department’s Rodent and Vector Program
• Assess/define city issues regarding deer in Austin
• Conduct city-wide resident surveys
• Monitor number and location of complaints
• Develop maps to help identify and mitigate deer collisions
• Study alternative strategies to accomplish the intent of the ordinance
• Monitor deer populations in order to target education and other non-lethal coexistence efforts, such as contraception, fencing/exclusion, use of repellants and deer-resistant landscaping
• Continue to work with 311 to keep wildlife and deer protocols up to date
• Provide information to new driver education programs so they will be aware of all wildlife, especially deer, in the City – possibly partner with the Texas Department of Public Safety, AISD and Driver Training Schools in and around Austin
• Work with schools in the Austin area to educate students on how to live with all wildlife, especially deer
• Change City law and/or policy to allow dead deer pickup on private property with the property owner’s permission so residents aren’t required to drag the carcass to the street’s curb/right-of-way
By Katherine Stolp