Ken Behrend and his family are wildlife enthusiasts who have various critters visiting their backyard — turkeys, skunks and even coyotes.
The deer, however, have gotten out of hand, roaming about the family’s Franklin Park backyard in herds of up to nine, said Behrend, 55.
“They eat all of our flowers, which is a nuisance. It’s not an Earth-shattering event… it’s a health issue,” he said.
Franklin Park is one of many towns in Pennsylvania examining ways to control burgeoning deer populations, which are leading to habitat degradation, complaints about destroyed yards, deer-vehicle collisions and public safety concerns.
Franklin Park Council is considering a ban on feeding deer, with fines of $100 to $1,000.
“The borough hopes that our residents would comply with it on a voluntary basis. I believe the vast majority would comply on a voluntary basis,” Franklin Park Manager Ambrose Rocca said.
In 2013-14, Pennsylvania ranked second among all states for likelihood of a vehicle collision with a deer — with a 1 in 71 chance, according to State Farm, whose data factored in insurance claims. Ten percent, or 123,941, of the country’s deer collisions occur in Pennsylvania, State Farm said.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission said supplemental feeding of deer leads to a higher risk of disease, such as chronic wasting disease and tuberculosis among the animals. While deer don’t play a role in the transmission cycle of Lyme disease, which is spread to humans through bites by infected ticks, deer do supply adult ticks with final blood meals and places to mate, the commission said.
Feeding them results in them losing their fear of humans and their desire to find food, said Jeannine Fleegle, a deer biologist with the game commission.
“People become attached to these animals, and they think they’re their own, and they’re not. Wildlife is a public resource, and it belongs to everyone in the commonwealth,” she said.
Other deer management plans include permits from the game commission that allow towns to hire companies to kill deer in designated areas. Some towns recruit licensed hunters from among their residents and allow them to hunt with restrictions. Other tools include applying repellents to plants to make them unpalatable to deer, installing fencing and using audible and visual frightening techniques.
The best way to manage deer populations, however, is with antlerless harvests, which is mostly the hunting of female adult deer, Fleegle said.
Feeding bans can be an effective deer management tool if they are used in conjunction with community education programs, the game commission said.
Bethel Park and Mt. Lebanon have deer feeding bans.
Neither police nor animal control officers have issued any citations under Mt. Lebanon’s ordinance, but the municipality’s code enforcement officer has sent two warning letters to people accused of feeding deer, police Deputy Chief Aaron Lauth said.
“The consensus in the community is that the ban has helped, but it certainly has not eliminated the deer situation in the community,” Mt. Lebanon Manager Steve Feller said. The municipality had deer hunts by Department of Agriculture sharpshooters in 2007 and 2008, but Mt. Lebanon commissioners ended that program because of concerns about safety and the cost, Feller said.
Mt. Lebanon is considering options, he said.
Flyovers conducted in Mt. Lebanon by Vision Air Research counted 342 deer in spring 2013 and 196 deer last spring, he said.
Franklin Park has established a Deer Management Committee that will survey the community about the issues deer are causing, Rocca said.
If the borough were to pass its deer feeding ban, a violation would be a summary offense. The manager, code official, police department or other designated official could determine whether a violation occurred.
At a Franklin Park Council meeting last week, President Amy Sable said she was concerned that enforcing a feeding ban would be difficult. But Councilman James Lawrence said deer feeders would be mindful of the ban, because they would feel pressure from watchful neighbors.
Council will present an amended animal ordinance Wednesday, and likely will vote on it in December.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.