LAKEWAY, Texas (KXAN) — City leaders are asking for public input at two open houses this week to determine whether and how it should manage the deer population that calls the area near Lake Travis home.
The first open house happens Thursday, Nov. 14, from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Lakeway Activity Center. A second open house happens Friday, Nov. 15, from 9-10:30 a.m. at the same location. Anyone unable to make it to one of the open houses can also submit feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The city suspended its program to trap, transport and process (TTP) deer last August. That program, permitted for years through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, allowed city trappers to capture deer and send them to slaughterhouses, donating the meat to local charities.
Since suspending the program 15 months ago, the city’s done nothing to manage the population.
That can be dangerous, city communications director Jerrod Wise told KXAN on Wednesday because deer cause dozens of car crashes every year.
“You’re not managing the impact of the herd,” Wise said. “At that point, the deer population could get out of control.”
Trapping video goes viral
The TTP program suspension came a few months after a video showing a trapping method went viral and caused a public outcry.
Ashlea Beck, a mother of three, captured the video near her house.
“My daughter ran in and she said, ‘Mommy, Mommy, come quick! They’re hurting the deer!'” she told KXAN in March 2018. “I got to my back door, and I looked over and I noticed that the net was down on the ground, and there were little bundles moving around.”
Then-City Manager Steve Jones said the trapping practice is more humane than the video makes it look and that the deer are in shock when they’re caught. He told KXAN he wished the procedure wasn’t necessary, but that the city needs to keep the population down.
Managing the impact
Between October 2016 and March 2017, there were 90 crashes caused by deer, according to city data. That was the most they’d ever recorded in a deer season.
The options now on the table are aimed at managing the impact of the herd. City leaders are considering the following options:
- TTP – trap, transport and process. This is the system city council suspended, and it could reinstate the program.
- TTT – trap, transport and transplant. The city was using this method to relocate deer to the wild before it started TTP. City leaders told KXAN in 2018 it stopped using this program years ago because there weren’t many places left to take the deer.
- Injection birth control. This would control the reproduction of the herd, thereby limiting the number of deer in the city.
- Surgical birth control. Similar to trap-neuter-release programs cities use to control stray cat populations, this option would also control the herd’s reproduction.
- Do nothing. Council will also consider this option of letting the herd exist naturally.
“We’re taking all input, no matter what it is, and also options that maybe we haven’t thought of,” Wise said. “So if there are other options out there, if maybe wildlife experts in the community come out and have some other ideas, we’re really open to hearing that.”
Lakeway city council won’t vote on a new program until January 2020 at the earliest.
Don’t feed the deer
No matter what city council decides to do, Wise emphasized no one should feed deer in the city.
“It sounds nice to be able to feed the deer and have them come to your lawn,” he said, “but the problems that can be associated with that are far greater.”
The types of feed people use, he said, are not healthy for wild deer, and they can attract more animals that can be a danger to drivers.
Plus, it’s against city ordinances. Anyone caught violating the rule is subject to a $500 fine.