A large contingent of residents are standing up for woodland creatures. Residents of the Whitewater Creek subdivision and surrounding neighborhoods spoke out at Thursday’s Fayette County Board of Commissioners meeting asking for the county’s support in stopping their homeowner’s association from killing deer.
During the public comments section of the meeting, numerous residents stepped to the microphone to express their displeasure with plans laid out by the Whitewater Creek Homeowner’s Association to deal with the deer population. Robert Goldberg spoke first on behalf of a group called “Concerned Citizens Against Deer Eradication,” laying out why he thought the plan was too harsh. Goldberg said they wanted to bring the issue to the county’s attention and ask them not to give the HOA any permits they would need in order to be able to hunt the deer at night. They felt not enough has been done to determine if the deer are truly a problem. In their opinion, it would be a permanent solution to something that not all residents think is actually a problem.
“Dead is dead and cannot be changed,” said Goldberg. “We feel like this is a Fayette County issue, not just our community.”
Residents of surrounding neighborhoods also spoke in support of the deer and in opposition of what they said would be a plan to bait the deer with corn and shoot them at night in the neighborhood. They asked that a more humane way of controlling the population be found. The HOA’s plan would take effect in a month or two. Goldberg also started a petition on change.org calling to stop the HOA from eradicating the deer. As of press time Tuesday afternoon, the change.org petition had nearly 900 supporters.
Commissioners also expressed their support for the deer.
“I don’t want them killing my deer,” said Commissioner Randy Ognio, who said he has many deer who frequent his yard. “I feel the same way as the citizens who stood up and spoke.”
Commissioner Steve Brown noted there is little doubt that deer are proliferating, and the issue could not be ignored.
“We need to have an open, honest, and balanced discussion,” said Brown, adding that professionals should be brought in for their expertise, “so we know where we are.”
Commissioner Charles Rousseau pointed the issue out as a reminder to residents to be vigilant and attend their HOA meetings. It was at a sparsely attended HOA meeting where the deer eradication plan was first discussed.
In a letter sent to neighborhood residents, the board of the HOA laid out details of the plan and what they say is the reasoning behind it.
“For many months, the Board has been inundated with numerous complaints about safety and health concerns arising from the ever-increasing deer population within our community,” says the letter, citing deer/vehicle collisions, disease risk, adverse health of the deer herd, and threats to natural resources as reasons to cull the herd.
According to the letter, the Georgia Wildlife Services Program determined the best option is professional deer removal. Wildlife Services is allowed to use high-powered rifles with noise suppressors, infrared and night vision, and other methods to eradicate the deer. Venison from the deer would donated to charity.
Local news stations have taken notice as well, Fox 5 airing a piece on Oct. 11 about the fight. Goldberg was interviewed for the piece, along with a resident who has had problems with deer. Representatives from the homeowner’s association declined to appear on camera, instead sending a copy of the letter.
On the heels of discussion, Commissioner Steve Brown asked staff to compile the number of deer-related car accidents. According to County Manager Steve Rapson, there were 473 accidents during 2015 and 271 so far in 2016.