Nine deer, including these three, showed up at Coupeville Town Hall on Feb. 23. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Nine deer, including these three, showed up at Coupeville Town Hall on Feb. 23. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Deer ordinance may be in the works for Coupeville

One resident said the sheer amount of deer urine is “overwhelming” and creates puddles at his door.

Puddles of pee, demolished yards and unauthorized fences are just a few consequences of an increasingly domesticated herd of deer in Coupeville.

Residents who have grown not so fond of the deer have been speaking out about their overly friendly behavior.

“New York City has rats and bedbugs, Atlanta has fleas and Bellingham has murder hornets. Houston has cockroaches, Phoenix has scorpions and in Washington, D.C. they’ve got politicians,” citizen Ralph Gamble said during a Coupeville Town Council meeting last month.

“In Coupeville, we have deer.”

Gamble added that the sheer amount of urine is “overwhelming,” creating puddles outside of his front door.

He pointed to his fellow citizens who are feeding the deer as being part of the problem.

“Domestication of wild animals is an interruption of natural feeding and causes dependence upon humans,” Gamble said. “I think it is sad to see these animals bow down to a hand that feeds them.

“These animals no longer have fear of humans.”

He asked the council for an ordinance that would prohibit the feeding and domestication of the deer.

The mayor and the council members agreed the deer were becoming a problem within the town.

Councilmember Rick Walti said the deer have been aggressive each year, not only during fawning season, and have come “stomping out” after him.

“Nobody can hardly walk their dogs around in the neighborhood,” he said.

Councilmember Jackie Henderson said she counted 16 deer running by her house over the duration of just one day.

“It’s just ridiculous,” she said. “I agree with Rick. I’m sometimes afraid to go out of my house until I holler and scream at them and they’ll finally start to walk away.”

Mayor Molly Hughes said Coupeville could create a no-feeding deer ordinance.

Hughes also mentioned the possibility of a controlled hunt within town limits.

Loitering deer have caused a “muddy mess” in peoples’ yards, Hughes said.

At a town council meeting this past Tuesday, Hughes shared that the town’s planning staff had been dealing with a number of new fences on citizens’ properties that don’t conform to town code.

The reason for the rash of unpermitted fences is believed to be to keep the deer out of yards.

“Since I’ve been in this town I’ve never seen this happen,” Hughes said.

“Obviously we all know it’s because of the deer,” she said. “I get that. I appreciate that but I don’t want the town full of chain-link fences. And chain-link fences are going up.

That is not in keeping with our historic town.”

She pointed out that the town code does allow deer fencing.

Given the approaching mating season, the mayor agreed to prioritize an ordinance prohibiting the feeding of deer within town limits. It could be brought before the council sometime within the next few meetings.

But even with an ordinance in place, it most likely won’t be a magic solution to the problem.

“I think it would help, but it certainly wouldn’t eliminate the population,” said Ralph Downes, an enforcement officer with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

He added that deer are foragers and would find other things to munch on.

While Downes hasn’t received a higher number of calls than usual about the deer, he did agree fences are a good way to keep the deer out.

The Coupeville deer situation, he added, is a bit of a Catch-22. Some people might be in favor of a controlled hunt to thin the herd, but others would be shocked and appalled at killing the deer.

“For every person that’s grumbling about them, there’s a person that loves them,” he said.

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