This fall's deer count revealed an uptick in the number of the animals spotted in Ashland, even though there were fewer volunteers fanning out across town.
Last fall, 96 volunteers covering 67 sections of the city spotted 187 deer during a half-hour count at dawn. This October, 65 volunteers covered 56 sections and counted 192 deer.
Two deer-count data cards have yet to be turned in, so the count could rise, said Southern Oregon University Biology Department Chairman Michael Parker, one of the organizers. "It will be comparable to last year. We did see more deer, but not a substantially different number," he said.
The counts are meant to give residents and scientists a baseline of information about deer numbers in town.
Some residents welcome the creatures, while others say they gobble up gardens and landscaping, collide with vehicles and threaten pets and people.
Ashland also has had several incidents of deer — especially does during fawning season — acting aggressively and attacking dogs.
The deer count covers animals that volunteers can spot, not deer hidden in backyards, dense vegetation and other secluded spots.
Parker said the counts can be used to estimate deer population sizes.
He estimated there were 280 to 340 deer in town last fall, and 296 to 356 deer in town this fall.
Parker said this fall's count revealed that deer numbers remain high in and around Lithia Park and above Siskiyou Boulevard out to Walker Avenue.
Below the boulevard, deer numbers are highest in the North Mountain Park area, he said.
The fewest deer were spotted in Oak Knoll Public Golf Course neighborhoods, which border Interstate 5 and light industrial areas, Parker said.
Parker said there were probably fewer volunteers for this fall's deer count because interest naturally wanes.
Some fall 2011 volunteers asked to be dropped off the deer count's email list after a debate erupted last spring over how the count results might be used.
A spring count was canceled in the wake of the arguments.
Parker said organizers plan on having the first spring deer count in 2013.
A handful of residents have advocated hunting deer with bows and arrows in town. City officials have no plans to institute a deer hunt.
Instead, the Ashland City Council adopted a deer feeding ban this year and also allowed higher fences so residents could protect their property from deer.
Past research has shown that deer feeding bans don't necessarily reduce deer populations in cities, but they can cut down on the risk of deer clustering around feeding sites and reduce deer vs. vehicle collisions.
Biologists and wildlife agency officials generally warn against deer feeding, which can cause the spread of diseases among the animals and habituate them to humans.
Ashland's deer feeding ban also covers wild turkeys, raccoons, bears, cougars, coyotes and wolves.
People can still feed wild birds, except for turkeys.
People who get caught knowingly feeding wildlife will get a written notification and then must remove the attractant within two days. People who don't comply can be cited for a Class 1 violation.
The total fine plus fees for a Class 1 violation can reach $435, according to Ashland Municipal Court staff.
People cannot knowingly place, distribute or store food, garbage or any other attractant, such as a salt lick, to draw in deer or other wildlife listed in the ordinance.
Parker said some residents have reported that the deer-feeding ban is working and they are seeing less damage to neighborhood gardens.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.