CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
SPICEWOOD — A deer-trapping program at Barton Creek Lakeside has sparked a debate about the role of rural communities in deer population control after some residents call the method “cruel” and an attempt to “control nature.”
The BCL Property Owners Association launched the trapping and processing phase of the program Feb. 24 at seven locations in golf course community of approximately 800 acres in both Burnet and Travis counties.
Trappers will manage the nets and capture deer from 5:30-11 p.m., collect the animals and transfer them to the Trinity Oaks Processing Plant, outside of San Antonio, officials say.
“We’ve all noticed, over the last two years, a much higher population than before. That leads to more issues with traffic safety and tearing up plants and things of that nature,” said Tom Rasmussen, president of the Barton Creek Lakeside Property Owners Association.
POA officials approved the program based on committee recommendations, resident meetings and a deer survey by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
“The numbers were over several hundred that they estimated in our area,” Rasmussen said.
Despite the overwhelming support from the POA leadership, a few residents expressed their concern about the procedure.
“We all knew there were deer here. Our real estate agent told us when we moved here, ‘You have to be careful what you plant and don’t plant,’ and now they’re trying to get rid of the deer because they think they hurt the vegetation,” resident Vincent Friedewald said. “We like to live in a rural community, and deer come with a rural community.”
Officials budgeted approximately $22,000 for the program.
POA leaders say Spicewood Helping Hands Crisis Ministry will be the beneficiary of some of the processed deer meat.
Freiderwald said he believes the trapping method does not justify the effort.
“Veterinarians tell me 15 percent of them (net-captured deer) have fractured limbs and vertebrae. That doesn’t seem to concern people, but it does concern a lot of people who are animal lovers,” Freidewald said. “We don’t want to see animals needlessly suffer. We’re trying to control nature. We come out here and then say let’s get rid of the deer?”
POA officials contend the state-sanctioned process remains ideal for thinning deer herds.
“The trapping has begun and has been conducted in a very humane way. It happens very quickly, very humanely,” Rasmussen said. “There’s no suffering.”
Trappers anticipate at least two weeks will be necessary to conduct the program with a March 31 deadline.
“We’re not interested in wiping out the whole population of deer. It just got to be a very difficult situation with really large herds of deer crossing roads at night and going through people’s yards,” Rasmussen said. “Texas Parks and Wildlife told us we had reached a level that we could not reasonably sustain the herd and make sure they were healthy and not disease-ridden.”
“If there are deer that are harming the roadway, then we have to get rid of them, of course, but I do not believe that because we can’t plant marigolds in our front yard (that it) justifies animal cruelty,” he said.
“I believe (the POA) went into it with the best intentions, but they were misled,” Friedewald added. “It’s a complicated situation. They did the best they can, but I think they got extraordinarily bad, erroneous advice.”
During the trapping phase, officials asked residents to keep their pets away from traps and avoid tampering with the equipment.
“We’ll measure the results and see what we need to do in the future,” Rasmussen said. “It’s not just trapping. We’ve embarked on some other education programs to help people understand what kind of plants are the most deer-resistant and that we shouldn’t be feeding deer.”
For questions, the POA ask residents to call (830) 693-2520.