City Hopes to Address Urban Deer Attacks

July 09, 2010

By: Leah Moskovich, DailyCal

Sara Lopus, a UC Berkeley Ph.D. student, always regarded the wild deer in her Thousand Oaks neighborhood of North Berkeley as tranquil, non-aggressive creatures. Naturally, she never expected to be charged by a female doe half a block from her home on Capistrano and Colusa avenues May 6.
A marked rise in the "urban" deer population has led to three separate incidents of wild deer attacks on dogs and humans within the last year, according to city officials, and the city is looking to alleviate the situation.
The Berkeley City Council directed City Manager Phil Kamlarz Tuesday night to meet with representatives from the East Bay Regional Park District and the California Department of Fish and Game to determine how to address the growing wild deer population's impact on residential neighborhoods at Tilden Park's interface.
On a weekly basis, about 30 to 40 deer sightings are reported by residents in the North Berkeley area. A decade ago, that number was reported every six months, according to Jill Martinucci, legislative assistant to Councilmember Laurie Capitelli.

According to Reginald Barrett, a UC Berkeley professor of wildlife biology and management, the deer, which wander as far down from the hills as the North Berkeley BART Station and as far west as Sacramento Street, become aggressive near dogs or when a doe is protecting her fawn.

"Every time we call (the Department of Fish and Game) about these incidents, they say it's normal behavior," Martinucci said.

Barrett said the urban environment in Berkeley is especially hospitable for deer because there is little to no predation and plenty of vegetation from residents' gardens.

"It might be surprising to people that the deer population density is higher in the city than in Tilden Park," Barrett said.

In response to the attack on Lopus, a Thousand Oaks Neighborhood Association meeting was held in May and Roxanne Bowers, a warden for Alameda County from the Department of Fish and Game, offered advice regarding wildlife intrusion.

Residents were advised to replace all plants of interest to deer with deer-resistant plants, to keep any fallen fruit from remaining on the ground and to carry umbrellas as weapons when walking through their neighborhood.

For Lopus and other residents, this advice was not helpful.

"I don't think my attack was a fluke, and I think the advice that was offered to us was really absurd," Lopus said in an e-mail.

Residents can obtain "depredation" permits from the Department of Fish and Game to have an individual deer removed via entrapment, but these permits are rarely issued and do not help the ongoing issue, Barrett said.

"Depredation permits are an example of one short-term solution," he said. "Currently, there is no definite answer."