Worthington leaders keeping tabs on local deer populations

Deer walk in front of the Worthington Municipal Building at 6550 N. High St. A recent report catalogued the prevalence of deer in the city.
Deer walk in front of the Worthington Municipal Building at 6550 N. High St. A recent report catalogued the prevalence of deer in the city.

Worthington leaders eventually might take steps to mitigate and control deer populations within the city, but any effort to do so wouldn’t be a minor undertaking.

An October report from city management assistant Ethan Barnhardt that catalogued the prevalence of deer in the city was distributed to Worthington City Council members last fall.

The report is the city's first step to understanding its deer population and determining if any necessary actions are required, Barnhardt said.

"The report is just trying to be able to have a starting point on finding out what's the scope of the deer issue and really determining how other communities, if they've taken action, what steps they've taken," Barnhardt said.

The report said that, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, an estimated 680,000 deer are in Ohio, and Worthington "has not been immune to the growth of the deer population and continues to receive complaints from some residents."

“We definitely are trying to keep up to get a grasp on what’s going on here on the ground here in Worthington, but the deer population is something that’s really been developing and across the entire state of Ohio for a consistent period of time,” Barnhardt said. “And it’s something that communities across Ohio – not just Worthington – are starting to grapple with.”

The report said the deer could pose a risk to ecological health – such as damage to trees or landscaping – and community health through the spread of Lyme disease and other communicable diseases, as well as vehicle safety and property damage.

“We’re hearing from residents who are concerned about the deer population and some of the damage they might be causing,” Barnhardt said.

Barnhardt said some of the main complaints from residents were damage to flowers and landscaping, the spread of Lyme disease and potential for car accidents.

According to Barnhardt's report, 44 residents had reported concerns about deer to the city in 2021. That’s up from nine reports in 2020 and 12 in 2019.

In addition, five vehicle collisions with deer were reported in Worthington in 2021, the report said. That’s down from seven in 2018 and six in 2017, but up from one in 2019 and three in 2020.

Worthington Parks & Recreation director Darren Hurley said deer have been a nuisance in the city's parks, where they have damaged trees and landscaping.

"It varies of course, and it's not the same in every park," Hurley said. "It really manifests itself in a lot of our new plantings."

The report listed several key takeaways regarding city deer populations. In particular, the mitigation of deer populations in the city will require a consistent and concerted effort by the city over time, Barnhardt's report said.

“There is no easy solution to manage the deer population in Worthington. In order to decrease the size of the herd, there will need to be a commitment of staff time and financial resources to formulate a deer-management program,” the report said.

According to the report, birth control or sterilization efforts are being researched and “are not appropriate solutions to manage Worthington’s deer herd, as it is neither a small nor closed population.”

Advising residents not to feed the deer also wouldn’t have “any appreciable effect on the size of the deer herd,” according to the report.

Deer hunting, whether with a bow or a gun, is illegal within the city boundaries, according to Barnhardt. The report said “any lethal program implemented would need to be fully vetted and researched, with general support of the community agreeing that the deer population is a problem for Worthington.”

Barnhardt said he has heard from some residents who enjoy the deer.

“We also hear from people who express how much they love seeing the deer out in their neighborhoods and how it’s definitely part of that natural feel that Worthington has, having the deer here,” he said.

Barnhardt said the city does not have any concrete plans to implement deer-management policies, and the present focus is on educating residents.

The city has posted tips for residents about deer and other types of animals at worthington.org/wildlife, and city officials hope to provide more information in the year ahead, particularly during the fawning season, he said.

"Those are the times of the year when they're the most active, so it's really important to try and get information out into the community so residents have the information they need to hopefully be able to manage any kind of interactions with the deer and make sure nothing negative really occurs," Barnhardt said.



This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: Worthington leaders keeping tabs on local deer populations