HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The City of Hendersonville has been debating what to do about the high number of deer for years and voted to conduct a third deer population survey to get a better idea of the accurate count of deer in their community.
The head of the Hendersonville Deer Herd Committee says whether to reduce the deer population or maintain it is a heated debate in the city.
“I have to point out at the top of meeting that we are all there as volunteers and none of us are paid and don’t shoot us before the meeting is over,” committee head Oliver Barry told city aldermen.
Barry explained that for many residents the deer are a nuisance because they will eat flowers and other vegetation, people fear they carry disease, and because of their role in some car crashes.
However, other residents see the deer as a part of the natural beauty of Hendersonville and enjoy seeing them in their yards and on their walks.
While a deer expert with the TWRA says there are no known cases of chronic wasting disease, CWD, posing a risk to people in Tennessee, they do encourage people to follow proper protocols when handling deer.
TWRA deer program manager Garrett Clevinger says deer populations vary based on different areas’ mitigation strategies, like imposing no feed ordinances, but that in general deer are more likely to be seen in the western part of the state.
“In eastern Tennessee, the soils are a little bit more rocky and we don’t have as much agriculture in the mountainous portion of the state but when we get further west we have a lot of agriculture and things like that that are very beneficial for deer populations,” Clevinger said.
City of Hendersonville Alderman Steve Brown said he gathered data from local officials and law enforcement and calculated from the start of 2021 through the first six months of 2022, the city spent more than $60,000 removing deer carcasses from the road. He said that means the city is paying more than $200 to remove each carcass. Brown also explained there were 161 cars damaged as a result of deer on the road in that same time period.
According to TDOT, deer-involved crashes are a problem across the state. The department has mapped the regions in the state with the highest severity of crashes, and many of them are close to larger metropolitan areas.
However, Barry and other city leaders say the no-feed city ordinance is rarely used and that is a central reason the deer are staying in Hendersonville.
One alderwoman said she has been asked by her constituents to call the police on their behalf of neighbors for feeding deer. Alderwoman Karen Dixon said in one instance, after investigating the situation herself and finding a “kiddie pool” with the food in it she called the police.
“I get a lot of people yelling at me too because there are so many deer,” Dixon said.
Clevinger calls feeding deer a “double-edged sword” and said that while they do attract deer for those who enjoy looking at them, feeding deer can also potentially harm the deer.
Barry told city officials while he wants members of the public to take the no-feeding rules more seriously, a survey would allow bring them closer to being able to coordinate a hunt to reduce the deer population.
“The USDA has told us in the past they would help us with a hunt if we have a door overpopulation problem,” Barry said. “After our first aerial survey, they decided we don’t have an overpopulation of deer and they decided not to help us with that. So, we are hoping the population numbers will be higher this time so we can do something.”
However, Barry said a hunt might be a short-term solution to a problem that some residents see as a perk of living in Hendersonville.