Midstate's suburban deer causing problems

newly-created residential suburbs are off-limits to hunting.
Jun 3, 2014
Deer like this little buck are becoming increasingly common in residential areas, where they often cause problems

It's a perfect storm: Middle Tennessee's deer population is rapidly growing, and so are its suburbs.

Most Midstate towns, including those in Wilson County, have gradually extended their city limits into once-rural areas, and those newly-created residential suburbs are off-limits to hunting.

Yet the deer remain in the general area -- in fact, they thrive in such protected suburban habitat -- and that is creating a growing problem.

Deer/automobile collisions are on the increase, along with damage done to expensive residential landscaping shrubbery and other plants. One Hendersonville resident estimated that deer have done $4,000 in damage on his property, and such widespread concerns have prompted that community to take action.

Hendersonville has formed a committee specifically to analyze the growing deer problem and come up suggestions about how to cope with it.

Other Midstate towns and communities are certain to follow the Hendersonville developments with interest, because many are faced with similar deer challenges.

Hunting is the most effective way to reduce the deer population, but hunting with firearms presents obvious concerns in residential areas. Hunting with bows is safer, but even archery hunting is opposed by anti-hunting groups.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency sets statewide deer hunting regulations but local municipalities can decide what rules and restrictions they want to apply inside their city limits.

They could, for example, permit bow hunting in certain areas where it was deemed safe, and anti-hunting groups or individuals are prohibited by law from interfering with the hunts.

Suburban deer problems are not new to many towns and communities in the east, and for years they have sought ways to deal with the animals.

Trapping or tranquilizing nuisance deer and transplanting them to remote areas or wildlife preserves is too expensive for most finally-strapped communities. It also is not effective long-term. Other deer will quickly re-populate the areas formerly occupied by the removed animals. (Even if a number of deer in a certain area are permanently removed by hunting, the process will have to be ongoing.)

One animal-rights group proposed trapping and neutering the animals, or mixing contraceptives into a food supply, but -- on top of being extremely expensive -- it didn't work. Even if a few does are rendered infertile, other does will simply give birth to additional fawns.

There are "anti-deer" chemicals that can be spread on shrubbery to discourage the animals from eating it, but they simply move on to other shrubbery on other lawns. And eventually, if hungry enough, they will eat the treated shrubbery.

Thinning the suburban deer population by responsible hunting -- usually controlled bow hunting -- is the only remedy that has proved effective.  But hunting is often met with resistance by animal-rights activists and neighborhood groups concerned about safety issues.

It's a problem with no simple solution, and one that -- like the nuisance deer -- isn't going away.

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