July 25. 2007
San Jose community to `thin' deer's numbers with bow hunters
Nestled near the east foothills above San Jose, a gated retirement community is debating what to do about the hundreds of deer that for years have been turning the lush landscape into a $10,000-a-month snack.
One solution: bow hunters.
Sometime after Aug. 6, two professional bow hunters will enter The Villages in South San Jose and take aim at eight deer - with permission from the California Department of Fish and Game and the community's general manager.
If it goes as planned, killing the eight will scare the rest of the herd enough to go farther back into the hills - along with the coyotes and mountain lions that prey on them - away from people and The Villages.
A special permit will allow the local hunters to enter The Villages at any time and would permit the killing of does and fawns, "but we kind of trust their good judgment," not to do that, said Fish and Game biologist Jeannine DeWald.
The specter of professional bow hunters killing deer in the retirement community of 4,300 has caused some "hysterical calls" to management.
But Steve Loupe, acting general manager of The Villages, and DeWald say the deer killing is necessary to reduce the threat to public safety from predators such as mountain lions who might target the deer for food.
Loupe said the 100 to 200 deer on the sprawling 1,000-acre property are also causing $10,000 a month in damages to landscaping and to a wide variety of plants on residents' property.
"There are about 500 undeveloped acres The Villages owns," Loupe said.
"There's a natural attraction for the deer to settle in this nice idyllic environment with man-made lakes and thousands and thousands of varieties of plants."
Loupe said The Villages has had a deer problem for some time but said they've become more than a nuisance. "We now have coyotes in the area, and we fear mountain lions will come," he said.
Management at The Villages informed residents of the plan to "thin" the deer herd in last Thursday's newsletter, The Villager. The process was to begin July 23.
But on the community's TV channel, residents were notified Tuesday that "the previous announcement of the deer thinning was in error." The killing would not begin until "after Aug. 6."
A July 31 meeting between management and residents will explain, "why this must be done now," according to the television announcement.
Still, Loupe said, the first article "prompted these hysterical calls to the Mercury News and NBC11."
But given the size of the community population, "you hear from a tiny but very loud minority, maybe 15 people."
Fish and Game's DeWald, who consulted with The Villages in the spring, said she recommended the bow hunters because the agency no longer relocates nuisance wildlife.
"We put radio collars on them and found out we spend a lot of money to relocate deer, but within six months they're dead," DeWald said. "They don't know where resources and predators are in the new area and mountain lions or other predators take them."
She said the bow hunters will be operating under two different types of permits. The first, a depredation permit, usually is granted when a species of wildlife is causing property damage or a threat to public safety. That permit will allow hunters to take four deer, male or female. They can take another four male deer under their hunting license deer tags.
"The general manager authorized hunting on his property, and it is archery hunting season," which will allow them to kill four deer, male or female, Steve Martarano, spokesman for Fish and Wildlife said.
Taking deer this way "is common, and it is oftentimes controversial," he said.
"Deer often do attract mountain lions. That's the reason we don't advocate feeding wildlife at any time. Wildlife ends up paying the price."
DeWald said the number of deer slated for death by arrow is based on scaring the rest of the deer and not trying to get rid of all the problem deer.
"It puts some pressure on deer not to get so used to being around people, and they'll regain some of their wariness," she said.
Human wariness about the method of death seemed to be growing. But Villages residents asked their names not be used.
"That is a dirty business," said one resident.
Her husband said, "I think it's a little crazy to come out here with bows and arrows."
Another resident, a lifelong hunter, said he does not approve of taking out deer with bows and arrows.
"I can't see killing does and fawns," he said. "They're almost like pets, you can get so close to them. There are other ways to do it."
The resident said he fears the deer already have been killed.
"I haven't seen any deer in the last two days," he said. Before then, "we'd see eight to 10 deer in our back yard every night."