By Doug Oakley
Bay Area News Group East Bay
Berkeley officials are advising dog walkers to use a stick against attacking urban deer who may be protecting their young.
Just about the only thing one can do when attacked by a deer in the city is hit it with a stick, said Berkeley City Councilwoman Susan Wengraf who studied the matter with Councilman Laurie Capitelli after the two received complaints from dog walkers who were attacked in the Thousand Oaks neighborhood and the Berkeley hills over the last two years.
"Our constituents wanted us to do something about it, but there's not really very much you can do except be careful where you walk and carry a stick or something like that," Wengraf said.
One woman was injured by a deer last year and required stitches to close a wound, Wengraf said.
"What they do is lower their heads and come after you," Wengraf said. "There is this behavior where they use their hoofs and this particular deer tried to kick the woman and somehow, the woman, in trying to protect her dog, got scratched."
Wengraf said she learned during a September meeting with an urban deer expert and the city's animal control officials that there's not much anyone can do to prevent the attacks.
You cannot shoot them because "It's not legal in the city to shoot anything," giving them birth control is expensive and "not a realistic option for population control," and relocation is illegal, Wengraf said.
Even if you could capture them and relocate them, they most likely would die, according to a city report by the two council members.
Residents can grow plants in their gardens that deer don't like and install deer-proof fencing to keep deer away, the report said.
Wengraf said she and Capitelli were surprised to find out that the deer who live in the Thousand Oaks neighborhood and in the Berkeley hills stay within a range of just five square blocks. That is contrary to their assumptions that the deer were coming into Berkeley neighborhoods as a result of overpopulation in Tilden Regional Park.
"I did learn that the deer are not coming from Tilden," Wengraf said.
"The deer live in the neighborhood, so if you see one, that deer is basically your neighbor."
The city's animal control department has seen no increase in the numbers of requests for pickups of dead deer in recent years, according to the report.
And while the wild deer population in California peaked in the mid 1960s and has declined since then, anecdotal reports suggest that urban and suburban deer populations may have increased, the report said.