Dean Brunson, like many of his neighbors, has tried everything he can think of to keep the deer from chomping his garden and shrubs.
Repellants, vegetable cages, harassment - nothing has worked."They're like goats; they've even topped off our roses," Brunson said. "It's worse this year than it's been in a long while."
Wildlife officers say they're responding to a "significant" increase of deer complaints this summer, mostly in areas east of Orchard Drive.
They blame the problem on an old feeding program that has been compounded this year by dry weather and new housing developments on the east bench. (See accompanying story.)
"It's hard to tell people this . . . but the only real way they're going to keep deer out of their yards and gardens is to build an 8-foot-high fence," says Larry Davis, one of three state Division of Wildlife Resources officers who work in Davis County. "These herds are `urban' deer, and generations of them have adapted to living among people."
Davis said the Eaglewood development in North Salt Lake and several others now under way along the east bench have forced herds west, north and south. His calls are up 20 percent this year over last year.
"We've tried everything we can," he said, noting the use of traps, snares and drugs to manage populations. Each method, however, has drawbacks, and none is very effective.
Snares can catch kids and dogs. And drugs create liability for the state. "You realize that one dart can contain a potentially lethal dose . . . a single branch can deflect it and we may not find it. What if somebody's child steps on that?" Davis said.
Pointing to earthmovers clearing soil for developments south of North Canyon, DWR regional manager Mike Wilcox said he predicts the deer problem will worsen.
"The deer have adapted; now the people have to adapt."
He and Davis suggest landscaping with shrubs less tasty to deer and the use of an effective repellant called "Ropel."
The last alternative is the least pleasant: shooting by a DWR officer.
Still, there are plenty of people who wouldn't mind if officers killed more deer, Davis said. However several residents want the deer around and even put out salt licks.
"That makes it real tough for us and for neighborhoods all over. There are differing views, and we can't just walk onto people's property for (herd) control if they don't want us to," said Wilcox.
Deer feeding in '83-84 led to today's nuisance
The sight of gaunt, weakened deer fleeing record snowfall in the mountains mortified Wasatch Front residents during the winter of 1983-84.
Thousands of Utahns and others across the nation, some famous, donated money for feeding programs. And the state Legislature approved a special appropriation of $337,000 to help.
But now, 10 years later, the kindness has created a nuisance.
Descendants of those first does and fawns that wandered to feeding stations in urban areas have taken up permanent residence in draws and thickets surrounded by an ever-increasing number of homes.
"They move from there into people's gardens . . . it's their home now and they're going to stay," said state wildlife officer Larry Davis.