Due to over-harvesting, the White-Tailed Deer population in our area was reduced to dangerous levels by the 1970s. To rescue the species from near extinction, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency embarked on a colossal undertaking to relocate deer to our area from West Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.
These efforts were successful and today Sullivan County has grown from having virtually no White-Tailed Deer to a healthy population today.
“We often take for granted the sight of deer in our backyards, but not long ago, they were an exceptionally rare sight in East Tennessee,” said Tyler Wicks, chief ranger at Bays Mountain Park.
However, an abundance of deer in our region has led to other issues and problems for residents. Namely, keeping deer out of our gardens and avoiding them while driving through town.
Mime Barnes, a communications and outreach coordinator with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, offers this advice for residents hoping to keep deer out of their yards.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there’s no way to truly wildlife-proof your yard unless you’re willing to go to some lengthy, costly extremes,” Barnes said. “Though there are steps you can take to minimize their presence.”
Some of these steps include planting deer-resistant plants, spraying foliage with deer repellent, removing bird feeders, erecting a garden fence, installing motion-activated sprinklers and using statues of owls or coyotes or playing music outside at night. And be sure to periodically move the sprinklers and statues because the deer will get used to them and avoid them in the future, Barnes said.
“Mixing all these things up to make wildlife uncomfortable in your yard is the best way to go,” Barnes said. “It takes effort to keep our yards in the condition we want them.”
Over the past six months, Petworks Animal Services has picked up more than 260 dead deer from the side of the road. Of animals commonly hit by motorists in the United States, deer ranks number one (an estimated 1.3 million collisions a year).
White-Tailed Deer are crepuscular animals, meaning they are most active during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk. Those are the times motorists should be most vigilant for deer, Barnes said.
“Follow the speed limit, use your headlights during those times and I would suggest motorists heed the deer crossing signs,” Barnes said. “If one deer crosses the road, then slow down. Deer tends to travel in family units.”
A final note about deer – if you come across a fawn in your yard, remember…the baby deer has not been abandoned.
“The mother hides them and only comes to them a couple of times a day to feed them,” Barnes said. “The best thing you can do is leave them alone, don’t keep watching and keep your dogs on a leash if deer are typically in your yard.”
Kingsport’s Communications Department is conducting a multi-part series this year on “Living with Nature,” which will highlight some of the animals found in our region (bears, deer, skunks, raccoons and snakes) and ways to protect you and your family if you encounter them – either in the wild or in your neighborhood.
The “Living with Nature” press releases can be found at www.kingsporttn.gov and on the Kingsport Alerts Facebook page.