AUSTIN (KXAN) — Each year Lakeway’s Deer Management Program traps and kills deer to prevent overpopulation. They say since the 1990s urban deer herds have impacted Lakeway through increased deer-vehicle crashes and negative human-deer encounters. When populations are too large, they say it negatively impacts health of the herds.
While the program has been successful in maintaining deer populations, some in the community believe the method is inhumane and want other solutions implemented.
“My belief, my basic belief, is that no animal should ever be treated cruelly, there’s no reason for it,” says Lakeway resident Rita Cross. “There’s always options, there’s always other ways of control and management.”
Cross started the nonprofit Citizen Advocates for Animals (CAFA). They want to see the city implement a sterilization program that utilizes ovariectomy – the removal of a doe’s ovaries. They say the process is humane and less invasive than neutering cats and dogs. The process takes about 20 minutes, and the deer receive pain management during surgery and post-surgery.
Their first goal: raising $12,000 to bring in two wildlife biologists to count how many deer live in Lakeway. And then after surveys are done, they’ll work with biologists to create a sterilization program.
“What they do is they start early evening and they count all night long for four nights,” said Cross. “All we’re asking for is a fairly close number, and they do it all over this country.”
The city manager of Lakeway, Steve Jones, tells KXAN they don’t know the size of the deer population. They stopped doing censuses back in 2003, but say they use other data sources to get an idea of the numbers. Among the tools they use – calls reported to the police, car crashes, numbers trapped, disposal of deer carcasses and observation. He says urban deer populations can grow 25 to 30 percent over the year.
Cross says it’s important to look at this data, but wants the city to do more.
“In our opinion there’s no reason why not to look ahead, not to be progressive, not to see what else is out there. That’s what we all want for the city to do,” said Cross.
The city says they will not help the nonprofit fund their efforts. However, if funding is raised, Jones says they would consider working with biologists to develop a program that would supplement or complement what’s already being done. He says they will continue to trap until a another program proves it can accomplish their goals just as well.
Jones says their program is recognized as one of the most successful programs in the state by Texas Parks and Wildlife. The numbers of deer trapped have fluctuated over the years.
CAFA says other cities in the country have successfully implemented alternative programs, and hope the city will consider other options for the future.