Battling Bambi


About this time every year when we lived in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota I had to start putting out my protective fencing. Our home was in a beautiful subdivision north of Rapid City with an elevation of about 4,400 feet above sea level. It was also in the Black Hills snowbelt with snow covering the ground from October through April. A typical winter brought about 300 inches a year. Today, I now hate snow and cold weather.

When we bought our home from an Air Force B-52 bomber pilot stationed at Ellsworth Air Force base, he showed me around the place. Behind the outdoor workshop lay a pile of wound-up heavy gauge fencing. I asked him what it was for.

“You put those around all your evergreens and shrubs. Keeps the deer from eating them down to the nubs in the winter,” he said. “Yea, they’ll eat about anything when the snows come. And you need to put these metal stakes on them, too so they won’t blow away. The wind blows pretty hard in these mountains.”

I thought to myself, “Judy will love to hear all this.”

He added, “You can buy some stinky deer repellant and spray on the flowers in summer. Keeps them from eating your flowers, too.”

“Won’t that kill the flowers,” I asked?

“Well maybe, but they won’t eat em,” he replied.

The bomber pilot and his wife hurried off for a new assignment and warm weather in Macon, Georgia.

I was left with my home deer control program. We staked out our protective fencing Thanksgiving weekend. Our Lab/Weimaraner dogs, Tilley and Ivy, chased deer out of our yard for a couple of weeks until they discovered they were pitifully slow compared to the leaping and darting deer. They soon gave up chasing for just looking.

The first big snow of winter came and was only 12” deep. We looked out our window at the wild deer herds traveling through our back yard. The animals were beautiful but many of our neighbors considered them a nuisance. I noticed the deer came out of the woods about 4 p.m. every day and headed down the street. One cold evening I put on my boots and followed them in the deep snow.

I soon discovered why they all went in one direction. Our neighbor, just over the hill, was putting out feed in his back yard. I counted over 40 deer dining on his scrumptious handouts. The deer were happy. Many of his neighbors weren’t.

Down the road in Rapid City the deer were a terrible problem for many neighborhoods. City fathers estimated 1,500 deer had taken up residence in the city limits. Each neighborhood had a deer herd. A few years before they developed a deer control program by letting sharpshooters kill about 110 deer each year. It cost them $108,000 or about $540 per deer. Now, there are still 1,300 deer. It didn’t work too well.

More deer were killed on the roadways than by hunters. It was dangerous to drive up our canyon at night. Each morning driving to work it was common to see deer lying dead on the interstate. We had some close calls.

We learned to live with the deer. They didn’t bother us. We bothered them since we lived in their beautiful habitat. Today you can see deer dining in Johnson City in various neighborhoods. Many people have seen them frequent Mountcastle Hills. They have the photos to prove it, too. But, please don’t suggest to the city commissioners they hire some sharpshooters. They are fun to see.


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