Deer on the increase, with control left to homeowners for now

Three deer enjoy a snack in a homeowner's front yard near Cedar Road. Photo by Bob Rosenbaum.

Deer wandering around residential neighborhoods is an increasingly common sight in the Heights as the deer population grows.

Though the City of Cleveland Heights does not track its deer population, Mayor Edward Kelley said he believes there has been an increase in the number of deer inside city limits.

Gwen Fenty, a South Taylor Road resident, raised the issue at Cleveland Heights City Council’s July 1 meeting. “I’m really truly afraid to work in my backyard,” said Fenty, “because I don’t know what I would do if I come face-to-face with a deer.”

Representatives from several cities on Cleveland’s East Side, including Cleveland Heights, University Heights, Shaker Heights, Beachwood, Pepper Pike, South Euclid and Lyndhurst, have met twice to brainstorm practical solutions for dealing with the deer.

University Heights Mayor Susan Infeld, who attended the first meeting, said, “The rationale behind approaching deer management regionally is because the deer move about freely and do not recognize community boundaries.”

According to Susanna Niermann O’Neil, CH’s acting city manager, attendees discussed possible ways to control deer population and migration, including shock fencing, deer repellant sprays and culling—the sharp-shooting of deer by trained law enforcement professionals.

“It was the general agreement that culling was not wanted,” said O’Neil, who attended a recent meeting. “It was felt at this point that nonconfrontational methods are preferred.”

“There was a consensus to continue monitoring the deer population in the communities,” said Infeld, “but no consensus on culling the population.”

Infeld said that the city has received sporadic notification of deer in yards, but has no plans yet to hold community meetings on the topic. “To date,” said Infeld, “when residents contact the police department or city hall with questions about deer management, we share information about plants that attract deer and those that do not.”

Kelley said it is up to property owners to find safe and effective ways to protect their yards and families. “It is the residents’ job, there are a number of things they can do,” Kelley said.

Some residents believe that effective methods of deterring deer are limited.

“When deer are hungry, the spray won’t stop them. You already have to use a lot because rain washes the spray away. We tried five or six different sprays,” said a Fairmount Boulevard resident, who has seen an increase in deer coming from nearby Shaker Lakes.  

About a year ago, the resident installed a two-and-a-half-foot-high shock fence to keep deer out of his garden. He got the idea from the electric fences that farmers use to control cattle. “I figured if it could control a 1,200-pound animal, it could stop a deer,” he said.

He needed to do something, he said, because a herd of eight deer were eating his plants every night. “Last year our hostas were down to the ground, and we haven’t had day lilies in our yard for three years. They decimated our garden,” said the resident.

The impact of the deer was not confined to his garden. “I have seen two car accidents involving deer in my neighborhood. We saw a police officer shoot a buck that had been hit. They had to put it out of its misery, but it really upset my kids,” he said.

The resident said the fence has made a difference, and the deer now avoid his family’s yard.

While the CH Police Department’s Animal Protective Unit (216-291-4987) will field complaints about domestic animals, there are no city resources available to homeowners for dealing with deer. O’Neil said residents should contact police for the removal of dead deer.

Camille Davis

Camille Davis, a senior journalism major at Ohio University, is a summer intern for the Heights Observer.

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Volume 6, Issue 8, Posted 1:59 PM, 07.31.2013