Drive around Saint Andrews at almost any time of the day and you are likely to meet a deer or two wandering the streets without paying too much attention to an approaching vehicle.
This fall, for the second year in a row, a nuisance deer hunt was held in the town which resulted in the tagging of 27 antlerless deer and council is continuing to lobby the province for an enhanced deer population control program.
The town is also currently partnering with the UNB Faculty of Forestry and Environmental Management on a senior class project on the Saint Andrews deer population.
Five undergraduate students, who are studying for their Bachelor of Science degrees in environmental and natural resources at UNB in Fredericton, are working on an urban deer management program for the town and hope to have their report finalized by the end of February.
They are Dominique Williams, Courtney le Roux, Maddie Hall, Angela Dick and Nichole Hornsby.
This is a year-long project spread over two semesters, explained Williams, and is part of the fourth year management practicum which everyone has to do for their degree program.
The students were given a choice of topics and she said doing the project on the urban deer population in Saint Andrews was the number one choice for those involved.
“We set up initial goals for ourselves. We wanted to determine the public, business and municipal standings and values on the deer and what the deer density is for the town.
“Our overall objective was to implement some sort of management plan with the deer density that was more manageable for the town. We also wanted to identify the costs and benefits of the density and compare it to other places which have had deer issues.”
Williams said there are lot of places facing this issue with deer and there isnot just one cookie cutter solution for all. The students visited Saint Andrews
a half dozen times and created a public survey to gather the views of residents as well as conducting a deer density sampling.
They completed 99 surveys asking residents questions such as whether they considered there was a deer problem in the town, if they approved or disapproved of the nuisance deer program, if they were concerned while driving because of the deer and what efforts they would like to see to cull the deer.
“We consulted a lot of our instructors who have experience in deer density. We did one sampling in more residential areas and a separate sampling for more open areas like the golf course.”
The goal, said Williams, is to combine the densities from the two samplings and they are currently in the process of compiling the data on the numbers.
She said they are also trying to consolidate the results from the survey which seems to be a little bit more weighted towards those who have problems with the deer.
“It seems like more people don’t like them but we wanted to make sure. We wanted to make sure we represented the different values fairly. There are stakeholders who hate them and some who like them.
“The initial data is collected and we are doing some additional research so we have an idea of what the options are. We have been in contact with a lot of experts on the matter. We want to make sure we represent everybody’s views.
“We also wanted to find out how much people know about deer and to see what they thought would be a solution as well as what they have tried so far and what would be the best way of getting rid of them.”
She thinks the solution to the problem will be a combination of things to reduce and maintain the deer population as she doesn’t feel there will be just one fix.
While they are pretty confident in the data they have received, Williams said the students may make another trip to Saint Andrews. They also plan to send the initial draft of their project to CAO Angela McLean and may also make a presentation of their report to town council.