JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
GRANITE SHOALS — A Granite Shoals group wants residents to have the final say in whether they can feed deer after the city council recently adopted a “no deer feeding” ordinance.
The Granite Shoals Citizens’ Advisory Group has collected 81 signatures on a petition calling for a referendum by voters on the ordinance. The initiative could work its way onto the November ballot.
The group’s executive secretary, Michael Steenbergen, said members have two issues with the ordinance.
The first is the amount of fines that will be issued after the grace period ends Sept. 12. During a 12-month period, residents who are in violation of the ban will receive a warning on the first offense; a $50 fine on the second offense; a $200 fine on the third, fourth and fifth offenses; and a $1,000 fine on the sixth offense.
“They went too far,” Steenbergen said of the council’s fines. “I was in support of the ban because I understand the issue. The penalty structure was punitive and unnecessary. It puts citizens in stocks.”
He noted several council members stated the ordinance had to have “teeth” to it so residents would follow it.
That’s why speed limits are set and enforced, he added.
But, he said, driving over the speed limit could lead to an accident and a much larger consequence than feeding deer.
The council adopted the deer-feeding ban as part of its overall plan to address the white-tailed deer population in the city. Officials pointed out that having a high concentration of deer in the city leads to poor health for the animals from disease and lack of quality food. Feeders, officials said, cause deer to congregate and allow for the easier transmission of diseases and parasites.
What Steenbergen’s group wants instead is an annual fee system in place in which residents can feed deer at $25 or pay $75 to use a larger bin.
“We’ll use all that money to educate people about urbanization,” the secretary said.
The group’s second issue with the ban, according to Steenbergen, is members aren’t convinced the city exhausted all available solutions.
Steenbergen added that a large-property owner east of Granite Shoals told him he proposed constructing a deer fence on the east side of the city to leaders, and he and the city would split the cost. But the property owner told Steenbergen that city leaders haven’t responded to the offer.
“You must control the perimeter in an area like ours,” he said. “I don’t have a solution for the west side.”
Deer fencing is part of the maintenance phase suggested by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department after an initial reduction phase is implemented. That reduction should be at least 50 percent of the current population, according to the organization, because anything less than that percentage “typically (doesn’t) provide significant relief from density-related problems.”
Granite Shoals is utilizing a bowhunting program this fall to try and bring down the number of white-tailed deer within city limits. Residents applied to be part of the program and must undergo written and field tests. Once chosen, bow hunters will be allowed to hunt deer in specific locations within the city when deer season begins this fall.
Deer fencing restricts the ingress of additional deer and gains more control over the deer herd, according to reports. But deer managers should have long-term deer management plans in place before initiating deer herd reduction operations, according to reports.
With at least 50 signatures on the petition, city staff told the council during its regular meeting July 26 there’s a possibility a November ballot item will be required. The deadline to submit the petition is Aug. 25. If the deadline is met, staff members have 21 days to verify the petition and two council meetings for members to take action.
The Granite Shoals Citizens’ Advisory Group’s mission “is to increase citizen participation in local government through awareness, education and engagement.”
While the group agrees something needs to be done about the deer population, they don’t believe a no-feeding ordinance will solve the issue, Steenbergen said.
Rather, the group would like to see deer fencing installed in parts of the city, he said.
Steenbergen noted that he saw 15 deer on his way home and another 10 deer on his way back to a neighbor’s house for dinner recently.
“Something has to be done,” he said. “They were healthy looking deer to me. They weren’t running from cars. It’s a tremendously high population for me to see that many deer.”