Aiken neighborhood calling on city leaders to allow sharpshooting team to remove deer

Friday, August 16, 2019
News 12 at 6 o'clock

Photo Credit: Char Love

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - An Aiken neighborhood is asking city leaders to amend city code to allow a sharpshooting team to manage an overpopulation of deer causing problems in the area.

The Woodside Plantation Homeowner's Association has been debating the issue with the city for months. Woodside Plantation is a sprawling gated community with over 2,000 homes, yet nothing can keep the deer out.

"I try to buy bushes that are deer resistant," said Elizabeth Hart, who's lived in the neighborhood for four years. She says every year more deer are out and about.

Elizabeth and her husband Richard say they've tried everything from deer repellent to different types of plants.

Residents say the deer pave trails all the way through the wooded areas in the neighborhood. Then, they walk right up to their homes.

"Every night my husband walks the dog. He runs into them," Hart said.

She says a deer actually attacked her friend while walking his dog recently.

"Knocked him down," Hart said. "And he actually had an antler go through part of his leg. He had to go to the emergency room."

Woodside residents tell News 12 the property owner's association says there's been 25 car incidents involving deer.

After dozens of complaints, the POA conducted a neighborhood-wide survey. The survey, residents say, asked if residents would be willing to allow "deer culling." A sharpshooting team, supervised by S.C. Department of Natural Resources, would come in to manage the overpopulated area.

The vote to remove the deer passed overwhelmingly, residents say.

"DNR would have to approve it," said Ed Girardeau, Aiken Councilmember District 4. "DNR would then oversee it. It wouldn't be a situation where anybody could go out in their backyard and start shooting guns."

Girardeau's received hundreds of calls and emails from both sides of the argument. He thinks, personally, that luring the deer away from homes and culling the herd out in the country is the best way to approach this.

"You've got to keep it away from the people," Girardeau said. "Can they (DNR) do that? Well, they could do it within the county certainly and not do it within the city limits."

Aiken Public Safety Chief Charles Barranco says if the culling is approved, then safety officers will do all they can to make sure the process is safe.

If Aiken City Council gives the amendment a green light, using guns to manage wildlife would be legal in city limits. The S.C. DNR supervises and manages the culling.

A neighborhood on Hilton Head Island also used this process to reduce the deer population. When the culling is completed, DNR takes the processed meat to food banks for those in need.