There is a deer population explosion going on in Azle, Texas, according to a story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. And landscapes are paying the price.
The city, with a population of about 12,000 people, has added 300 new homes in recent years, and still more subdivisions are on the way. Its lakefront location and thick woods have made it a desirable homestead.
But what appeals to people also appeals to deer. Residents and city officials say deer have always roamed Azle, but the homebuilding spree has wiped out their habitat.
The recent drought much of Texas suffered didn’t help, either, pushing them into the heavily watered and landscaped Oak Harbor Estates development.
The Bambi invasion is causing once-friendly neighbors to bicker and swap insults. Some people have been feeding the deer, causing other residents to resent their encouragement of what they see as a nuisance.
Roger Cokenour and his wife, Laura, can attest to that. They have been feeding the deer that they see wandering about, causing some angry reactions. “People flip us off,”. Cokenour says. “But other people bring us feed or money.”
His informal poll of a local Facebook group showed that the members of it supported feeding the deer by more than 10-1. “If I stop feeding them,” insists Cokenour, “they’re still going to be here, but they’ll be eating your plants.”
Tarrant Regional Water District board president Jack Stevens says deer have crashed through his church’s door and a friend’s patio door. “People are just putting up 8-foot fences and walling off their yards,” he says. “You can’t have shrubbery here anymore.”
Local landscape contractors have also been affected by the hungry, hungry herds. Dustin Ketron, owner of Ketron Landscaping in Azle says he’s lost $800 worth of Texas sage and Mexican heather. “It was gone within four days,” he says.
“I thought it was gophers, it went so fast. But we stayed out there one night. We were amazed how many deer.”
Residents aren’t getting much help from the town’s officials. Janie Rector, who lives in Azle, asked the City Council to ban deer feeding. Though the matter was placed on the council’s agenda, city administrators say they plan no change in deer policy.
And the town’s mayor, Alan Brundrett, sides with the deer, saying “That’s one of the charms of Azle — we still have wildlife and open spaces.”
City manager Tom Muir said neither he nor police chief Rick Pippins will recommend that the city place a ban on deer feeding. “We may educate citizens more that feeding is not good for the deer and not good for the community,” Muir says.
This is frustrating for Rector and other townspeople. “They have kind of invaded us,” says Rector. “People think they’re cute and feed them. But at this rate, they’ll be sleeping in our yards soon. They’re already out here all day, grazing like cattle.” And, eating her dwarf and tall pittosporum. “The tall ones now look like trees,” she says.
The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department governs all wildlife, including deer. Some cities trap and relocate deer or donate their meat to charity after health tests are done.
Mayor Brundett contends that most of the town’s residents enjoy seeing deer. “It’s one of those charms that makes Azle great,” he says. “Look at Facebook. A lot of the comments are like, ‘If you don’t like ‘em, move back to the city.’”