Deer are not always the cute creatures portrayed in Bambi. In fact, they can be a real nuisance in areas like Gainesville.
Officials from the Department of Natural Resources wouldn’t go as far as to say the deer population in Gainesville is above normal. However, some homeowners, particularly those along the Riverside Drive area, are frustrated by the presence of deer are and searching for ways to protect their properties.
“We were growing sunflowers ... and it seemed like that was their snack of choice, so they ate all the sunflowers,” said Julie Floyd, a resident of Riverside Drive, who maintains a garden in her backyard.
“They’re not devastating it, but they’re definitely getting in there,” she said.
Floyd thought she had solved the problem of deer destroying her crops after putting a fence around it, however; the deer managed to find a way around it.
“They found a way to kind of pry it open and get it,” she said.
Residents along the Riverside Drive area may soon see some relief from the deer.
Officials from Riverside Military Academy and the DNR have organized two sanctioned archery hunts to thin out the deer population. Those hunts will be held Nov. 24-26 and Dec. 22-24 when cadets are on leave.
“The deer seem to be causing quite a bit of damage to the residential flowers, gardens, all that kind of stuff in the area,” said Riverside Commandant Lt. Col. Kevin Jarrard.
A raffle will be held at The Outdoor Depot in Gainesville at 12 p.m. on Oct. 8 to select five hunters — 10 total — for both sanctioned hunts.
The issue of deer in the area came to the forefront in February 2010 when about 100 residents attended a meeting with city and state wildlife officials to discuss how to curtail the whitetail deer population.
Gary Kansky, manager of the city’s code enforcement division, said the city is not involved in the sanctioned hunt or any other methods to reduce Gainesville’s deer population.
“As far as the city’s stance on (the hunt), we’re not going to sanction it,” Kansky said. “The only thing is you can’t discharge a firearm in the city limits and you have to follow state laws discharging a firearm next to a house or a street, so you have to meet all those requirements.”
This will be the first ever sanctioned hunt on the 206-acre Riverside campus. The same hunting rules are in effect as they would be on a DNR Wildlife Management Area.
“The DNR feels like if we can (reduce) the herd a little bit, it would be a much more sustainable population,” Jarrard said. “It’s not good for the deer when there’s overpopulation either.”
Scott Frazier, wildlife biologist for the DNR, said other than the Riverside sanctioned hunt officials, the DNR is “not actively trying to change deer densities in Gainesville or Hall County in particular.”
While putting up a fence seems like the simple solution to keeping deer from destroying property, there are other measures homeowners can take.
“People instead of just looking out and seeing the deer, they actually can actively try and aggregate them or pester them to keep them from being comfortable,” Frazier said.
For residents with small gardens, repellents can be used but the deer often can adapt. Those repellents can be both natural liquids or stationary objects such as a scarecrow.
“Most literature suggest that lots of things work ... and they all work for a brief period of time, so human hair, soap, radios left on, scarecrows, they all show an effect, but they also all show if you leave it in the same setting for four or five days a week the deer learn it and it becomes white noise and they ignore it,” Frazier said.
Kansky said one reason the deer may have initially been attracted to the Riverside Drive area is due to residents putting out deer feed and now they continue to look for food in the area.
“It all comes back to one thing,” he said. “Don’t feed the deer and they won’t come.”
Anyone interested in participating in the Riverside hunt can purchase a raffle ticket for $20 at The Outdoor Depot, at the Riverside business office or at Riverside home football games.