By Jesse Wood
July 6, 2012. Two hours before Blowing Rock’s July 4 parade, a erratic deer ran right down the middle of Main Street for at least 15 seconds before veering off the road, out of sight, and last week a deer darted across downtown King Street, disappearing somewhere behind Ram’s Rack Thrift Store.
“Was it part of the parade?” joked Blowing Rock Town Manager Scott Hildebran.
Speaking more seriously, he added, “I think there is a greater population for deer in the area. I’ve heard from a lot of folks recently and have seen more [myself] than in the past.”
Although Chris Kreh, district 7 wildlife biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, said the deer population has been “fairly stable” in the past several years in District 7, which covers Watauga County among others, he added that urban areas are seeing increases.
“That’s kind of looking overall. If you break it down to small areas, to urban areas, in town kind of places, there is very little hunting pressure,” Kreh said. “A lot of those places see a substantial increase in numbers.”
According to Kreh, roughly 30 deer per square mile exist in the High Country, which he said is about the norm for the entire state. He added that the deer population estimate is made with a “broad brush,” selected among three choices – 10, 30 or 50 deer per square mile.
As urban sprawl ventures into more areas of the High Country, deer have less areas to roam and hunters have less undeveloped areas to hunt. One resident who lives in the southeastern part of county has seen more deer infiltrating his land over the years.
Recently, this landowner sighted more than 25 deer on his property in a single sighting, so he invited two hunters onto his property who came and killed about a dozen deer in a couple hunting sessions.
“They have really become a pest,” he said, wanting to remain anonymous. He added that both an extended deer hunting season and an urban archery season may be needed to control the influx of deer.
Kreh, the District 7 biologist, said he’s had some comments “in passing” from landowners but not hunters.
“I wouldn’t suggest that a city or town get into it as a 100 percent solution, but it is a step in the right direction,” Kreh said, adding that it’s a “pretty good fit” and is not a financial burden for towns to allow landowners to allow hunters on their property.
Unlike West Jefferson in Ashe County, municipalities in Watauga County do not have an urban archery season, because as, Kreh said, no towns in Watauga County have requested to be included in the urban archery season.
Town managers Hildebran of Blowing Rock and Greg Young of Boone said the issue of an urban archery season has never been brought up before. Young mentioned that someone was scheduled to speak at a Boone Town Council meeting a couple months ago on the subject of an increasing deer population, but for some reason or another, that person never showed up before the council.
Other than that, Young said there have been some issues with town vehicles such as police cars hitting deer in the early morning or late afternoon.
In the most recent figures available from the N.C. Department of Transportation, 75 vehicles in Watauga County struck deer in 2010 – 45 of those accidents happened between October and December. In 2009, 72 cars struck deer – 33 of those occurring between October and December.
Deer hunting season starts in September in Watauga County, according to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission: archery season takes place from September 8 to November 2; muzzleloader season happens from November 3 to 16; and the season for guns (all weapons) occurs from November 17 to January 1.
What do you think? Comment below on your thoughts about an urban archery season or about, in general, the deer population in your neck of the woods.