Deer becoming a common sight in Natchez

Published 12:27 am Sunday, March 2, 2008

NATCHEZ — Deer hunting season might be over, but humans are still having plenty of interactions with the animal thanks to a combination of dwindling deer habitat and rising river waters.

Earlier this week, one particular deer made a dramatic entrance in Natchez.

It first got caught in a fence outside Temple B’Nai Israel but by the time police officers arrived, it had freed itself from the fence and made its way down the steps into the basement of the temple.

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The deer, a doe weighing about 80 pounds, was finally captured by a game warden from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and released back into the woods.

Deer in town, while a strange sight, is not all that uncommon when the river water rises, said Chris McDonald, Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks deer biologist for districts five and six.

“Once water gets into their habitat, they want to get out of it until the water goes back down,” McDonald said. “They’re going to seek higher ground.”

In addition to rising water, urban sprawl and development also are pushing deer into the city limits.

“Most of the contact is taking place when human development goes out into the deer’s habitat,” McDonald said. “It’s becoming more prevalent now as development continues to encroach upon the deer’s natural habitat.”

While wild deer can be a nuisance, they are not dangerous in most occasions are generally afraid of humans.

“If you are able to get real close to a deer, it is most likely because it is sick,” McDonald said. “Your chances of getting close to a healthy deer are slim because they’ll run off.”

However, McDonald said deer can become accustomed to humans fairly quickly.

“People who begin feeding deer in their backyard can get close to them because the deer have become accustomed to them,” McDonald said. “However, any wild creature is not one to play with.”