Tega Cay Deer Population Information
City Council recognizes the strong feelings on both sides of the conversation when it comes to the deer population in Tega Cay. As such, City Council has been and will continue to be forthcoming with all data and information it is reviewing during this process.
Due to concerns brought to prior City Council members by residents, the City enlisted the help and expertise of SCDNR (Dept. of Natural Resources) to conduct a study to give the City a better understanding of how many deer live within our jurisdictional boundaries. The first study that was conducted was on December 16, 2015. The results showed an estimated population of 67-deer per square mile. At that time SCDNR explained that we were facing more of a socialization issue than a population issue- while residents had concerns about deer behavior, there wasn’t an abundance of deer and no biological issues with the population.
Due to more recent concerns being brought forth by residents, the City worked with specialist from SCDNR to do another spotlight study on March 21, 2022. That study showed an estimated population of 301-deer per square mile. SCDNR met with City Council on June 21 of this year to explain the March study and detail potential next steps. SCDNR recommended doing another spotlight study and conducting a survey of our residents. The City conducted another spotlight study on September 14 while also conducting a survey of our residents.
That spotlight study showed an estimated population of 349-deer per square mile and can be found here. When looking at the three studies, we have extrapolated an estimated 40-deer/year per square mile increase over the 7-year period. The study area for all three studies is 2.5 square miles. SCDNR provided the City with comments to the most recent study, which can be found here.
Raw data from the survey of our residents showed 2,119 responses. Of those, 93 were removed due to: 1) the response came from outside the City, or 2) the respondent provided duplicate answers. Of the remaining 2,026 responses, 1,116 (50.15%) were in favor of utilizing sharpshooters and 1,010 (49.85%) were not in favor of using sharpshooters.
What are the Options?
During the June 21st meeting, SCDNR discuss the options available under the Urban/Suburban Deer Management Guidelines. They estimated a controlled hunt would be the least expensive of the options. In an effort to explore the opportunity of potentially relocating the deer, City staff contacted PETA, the National Wildlife Federation and the SC Chapter of the Sierra Club to see if they could provide financial assistance, as SCDNR estimated this expense to be $1,200/deer. Only PETA responded to the City and were adamantly against relocation stating it would create too much stress on the deer and was not humane. PETA recommended eliminating or drastically reducing the food sources.
The SCDNR Urban/Suburban Deer Management Guidelines can be found here. Members of Council and Staff have had multiple follow up conversations with SCDNR about Guidelines and asked for recommendations. The only options available under SCDNR are listed here along with excerpts from the conversations with SCDNR officials.
Option 1: Do Nothing
- During the September spotlight study, SCDNR noted that the “brow-line” or the height of the foliage destroyed by the deer throughout the City is indication that the food sources are being quickly depleted due to the size of the heard. Eventually, nature will cause the herd to begin to reduce in population. Healthy production will slow, and deer will become smaller and weaker over time.
Option 2: Hire Expert Marksmen to Cull the Herd
- The least expensive (approximately $200/deer according to SCDNR) and most efficient way to get the heard under control. SCDNR, per their management plan guidelines, only allows for SCDNR licensed individuals/companies to conduct this activity. All deer harvested must be processed and meat must be given to an eleemosynary institution/organization. SCDNR noted this may not be an effective strategy due to the size of the heard unless performed over multiple years or a waiver is granted by the SCDNR Board to harvest more than 80-deer per year
Option 3: Sterilization
- SCDNR noted that this would be a good long-term solution and could be deployed down the road once the herd was reduced in numbers. They noted it could take 7-10 years for the City to see the effectiveness of this process and it is very expensive. SCDNR estimated it could cost $1,200 per deer.
Option 4: Relocation
- SCDNR felt that of all the options for reducing the herd, this was the most “unethical and inhumane” due to the stress placed on the deer. Per the management plan they would have to be delivered to an SCDNR approved wildlife management lands which would be a new habitat for deer in Tega Cay that basically do not have a natural predator in the current habitat. They could also injure and kill one other in the transport process. The option only became legal in South Carolina recently so there is not much data on it “locally”.
SCDNR’s recommendation is the City should deploy sharpshooters and remove at least 80-100 deer in the first year. After that the City should complete 2-3 new spotlight studies next fall over the course of a few weeks. Depending on what that data shows, the City may need to cull another 100-200 deer in the following year. Once this process is productive and the numbers become more acceptable, the City should consider a sterilization program. If sterilization remains cost prohibitive, the City should revisit the sharpshooter process as needed in the future after it conducts multiple spotlight studies in the fall.
City Council will receive comments from the public at their October 17th, Regular City Council Meeting. They do not plan to formally discuss this issue and consider a vote until either November or December Council meetings at the earliest. If the decision is made to cull a portion of the herd utilizing expert marksmen, that process would not begin until January/February at the earliest. SCDNR allows for this type of activity to occur from September-March of each year under an approved permit.