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On almost any given night, 50 deer at one time stand tall, graze the grass and leap through the Galax High School football field, said Galax Police Chief Rick Clark.
While it is quite a sight to behold, the deer have became a nuisance in Galax, causing car accidents and munching residents' yards, vegetable gardens and flower beds.
Three years ago, Galax City Council advised the police department to look at the deer nuisance as an animal control police issue.
Since then, the police department has shot and killed more than 200 deer.
“This is not hunting by any shape, form or fashion,” noted Clark. “Twenty years ago, when deer appeared in the city, they were considered a novelty. Now, they're a nuisance. The deer stand in people's yards like dogs — sometimes as many as 40 at a time.”
The police department contacted the Virginia Game Commission and was assigned to a Virginia Game biologist from Virginia Tech. After several meetings with the biologist and surveying the city to find problem areas, the Galax Police Department was granted its first permit in 2007 to begin a deer eradication program.
This program was also started in surrounding localities, such as Wytheville, Radford, Roanoke, Salem, Blacksburg and Christiansburg.
Clark said concentrations of deer run high just about everywhere in Galax, from Walmart to the blinking caution lights on East Stuart Drive toward Independence. Specifically, Clark said, problem areas include the Galax High School area, Glendale Road, Galax Municipal Golf Course on Glendale, Valley Street, Country Club Lane, Cliffview Road and West Galax.
The department has been given permission to kill deer October through March. The first year, Clark said officers got a late start and only killed 26. Last year, they killed 163 and a couple of weeks ago, the department killed its first batch of 16.
Officers go door to door to ask permission from neighbors before firing their rifles, the chief said. After 10 p.m., the police department uses a suppressed rifle.
They only kill does because once they start bearing fawns, they give birth to twins and triplets and heavily contribute to the deer population.
The police department then disposes of deer in the landfill.
So far, there are no effective deterrents against deer. Some residents use sound to get rid of them, but they become accustomed to the noise.
Others use human hair as a repellent, but that is only effective for a short time, until the deer become acclimated to it, Clark said.
“We're not doing away with the problem, but we're helping to slow it down,” said Clark. “There is no such thing as deer birth control.”
Clark said the police department got a late start on the issue again this year due to time constraints.
The police department and the city receive numerous complaints each year about deer chewing up lawns and gardens, especially during the summer. Deer, he said, love roses, green grass and apples.
In 2008, three Galax police cars were involved in accidents with deer in broad daylight, said Clark.
Deer, he said, are not the only problem in Galax though. The police department also receives complaints about raccoons, skunks and even black bears that lurk around dumpsters at Horton's Supermarket and The Hub on South Main Street.
The Virginia Game biologist, Clark said, suggested that black bear could become a nuisance in 10 years.