Saturday , December 30, 2017 - 5:00 AM
A deer in the yard of North Ogden resident Ashley Lunt on Sept. 7, 2017. The presence of the wild animals, seemingly wandering aimlessly, worries her, and the North Ogden City Council has authorized a count of the critters, to start in January 2018, to help gauge the extent of the issue.
NORTH OGDEN — Efforts to determine the size of North Ogden’s urban deer population — a point of discussion for months — will start next month with a volunteer-conducted headcount.
“You can’t get an exact count, obviously,” said Jordan Wayment, a Utah State University student majoring in recreation resource management who’s aiding in the process.
But officials hope to get at least a general sense of how many of the critters live within city limits; that would help the North Ogden City Council as it weighs whether to implement a hunting or relocation program to thin their numbers.
It’s been a simmering issue. Some complain that deer ruin orchards and backyard gardens, while others say the animals should be left alone.
Plans call for two or more headcounts in the winter and two or more additional counts in the summer. City leaders decided last month to conduct the counts and allocated $1,000 on Dec. 19 for the effort. The money will pay for snacks for volunteers and for four surveillance cameras to be posted in problem areas to assist in the count.
Mayor Brent Taylor said 25 to 30 “hot spots” have been identified where deer typically appear, and several routes through the city have been pinpointed as part of the planned counts. Volunteer deer counters will fan out on the same day at the same time, sticking to predetermined routes, thus minimizing the possibility of double-counting animals. The first count will be held in early January, Taylor said.
Neither Wayment, working with USU professors versed in counting wild animals, nor Taylor offered specific deer thresholds that will guide any final city council decision. Taylor suspects city leaders will decide the next course of action, if any, next summer, after the counts are completed.
The presence of the counters driving the proposed routes shouldn’t adversely impact counting, Wayment said. “Urban deer, they’re used to that. They’re not afraid of a car. They’re hardly afraid of people,” he said.
It’s not unusual for deer to venture from higher elevations into urban areas during the winter in search of food. But some maintain that more and more of the animals remain year-round.