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Published on Wednesday October 19, 2011 - 12:37 PM
 
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ASHLAND, Oregon - The city of Ashland in Southern Oregon is known for its Shakespeare festival and as the home of Southern Oregon University. Some city residents know it as a place in the mountains where they have to build fences 6 to 12 feet high to keep the deer out of the vegetables — or give up gardening entirely.

City officials haven't proposed any plans to reduce the number of deer in town, but they do want to have a better understanding of what many residents think is a growing problem.

Last week, volunteers took a census. With most results in, they found 186 deer and figure they overlooked some that were bedded down or hidden in backyards.

The count will serve as a baseline for future censuses. The organizer, Southern Oregon University biology Professor Michael Parker, hopes to raise $6,000 in grants and contributions for an aerial survey this winter.

The counters were out at daybreak and got a glimpse of what makes Ashland attractive to deer: Homes had secluded backyards with lush vegetation, while scattered empty lots beckoned with grass and bushes. Houses on appropriately named Woodland Drive backed onto madrone-filled woods that provide shelter and cover.

"I've given up on any sort of gardening. They're a nuisance," said Marian Crumme, who lives near a park that's popular with does and fawns and volunteered as one of about two dozen deer census-takers.

Another counter, Southern Oregon junior Todd Granum, president of the university's biology club, said quite a few deer live on campus near student dorms.

"They don't bother us," he said, although he noted there were reports that a deer had jumped through a ground-level dorm window.

Later he passed a spot where he used to startle a young buck living by SOU's Cedar Hall.

"He'd scare me as much as I'd scare him," Granum said.