San Marcos Animal Services Department and Texas State have joined forces to conduct the city’s first deer census.
Bert Stratemann, Animal Services manager, said direction for a deer census emerged from City Council last May after receiving complaints from residents over the past two years.
“At this point we don’t know if there is even a problem with the deer,” Stratemann said. “The census will provide a baseline count to better understand the population of white-tailed deer in San Marcos.”
John Baccus, Regents’ professor of biology, said he will be leading the survey with selected wildlife studies graduate students in agreement with the city to spend $5,000 in expenses, if needed.
Baccus said the census will occur two times this year. The first at the end of February to count the deer at their low, and again in August to calculate the number at its highest peak in population density.
The Deer Census will transpire in four vicinities that have rendered the greatest number of complaints and sightings regarding the population. Areas of interest include: Willow Creek; Westover Neighborhood, Bishop Street, Franklin; Drive and Loop Street; Holland Street, Sierra Circle and Spring Lake Hills.
Baccus said a “driving camp” technique will be utilized beginning at 4:30 p.m. to effectively count the deer with the use of spotlights. The procedure will be repeated five times on evenings with deer-friendly weather patterns in both of the census dates.
“We will be in a pick-up truck, driving around to see deer, and will document where those deer occur and how many,” Baccus said. “Once we get that data we will put it into a computer formula that will calculate an estimate of how many deer we have seen in a given area.”
Stratemann said after the estimate is returned to Animal Services in October, the advisory board will make a presentation to City Council. What actions will occur as a result, if any, are unknown.
Blake Hendon, Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist, said nearby Austin communities have taken action to decrease the overpopulation of deer in urban areas.
Hendon said the first step in managing the overpopulation of deer is to prohibit feeding. He said some places such as Lakeway have gone to the extent of harvesting deer, transporting them to appropriate environments or killing the deer, and donating the meat.
Hendon said the process of taking action after census results is controversial.
“It very seldom gets to the level of practical management of deer in urban areas because there is conflict of beliefs,” Hendon said. “It can get very heated.”
Shirley Rodgers, San Marcos resident, has had up to 20 deer in her yard at once and noticed an increase in the animal’s population in the area 15 years ago.
Rodgers would support deportation of the animals to a more acceptable environment despite her love and tolerance for the deer.
“I would love if they took the deer out of here, because they just keep multiplying,” Rodgers said. “I would rather them take them to an environment where they had food to eat, because here there are more deer than ample food.”