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Deer Are Part of the Landscape

Real estate agents report that the presence of deer does not seem to affect home values. They can take a toll on gardens, however, and not every community allows fences high enough to keep them out of the yard.
Real estate agents report that the presence of deer does not seem to affect home values. They can take a toll on gardens, however, and not every community allows fences high enough to keep them out of the yard. (By James M. Thresher -- The Washington Post)
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By Karen Tanner Allen
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, March 1, 2008

It's not the kind of thing that you expect on the to-do list after you buy a house. So one Washington couple was surprised last summer to find that one of the first chores at their new home was bagging and dragging a decomposed adult deer from their yard.

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"It was miserable," said Gioia Venezia Grenfell, an artist. The house had no central air conditioning, but the stench of the deer kept the Grenfells from opening the windows. It "was a long process. . . . Then we had this carcass in a big bag in the street."

These days, living in the Washington area means living with deer and other wildlife. There are more discouraged gardeners, more fences and more calls to animal control.

The most obvious concern is how to keep deer from eating the flowers. But other questions arise, such as: What do you do with an injured or dead animal in the yard?

It took the Grenfells several calls to find out that the District of Columbia's sanitation department would take the carcass away -- but only if it were brought to a public curb or alley. The city department also could not come on the weekend.

Milton Grenfell, an architect and Eagle Scout, first covered the deer with dirt to temporarily mask the smell. Then he donned his thickest gloves and oldest clothes. Using a rake, he wrapped the animal in two huge yard bags and dragged it to the street.

"We love the deer," he said. But, "we prefer the live ones."

If an animal is injured, municipal animal control or a humane group usually will respond, even on private property. At the other end of the deer hotline for the Wildlife Rescue League in Northern Virginia is Kimberley Sisco, a volunteer who if necessary will come out in the middle of the night to save a deer. However, the nonprofit group's resources are too limited to allow it to retrieve dead deer, she said.

Hoisting an animal the size of an adult deer, from 50 to 250 pounds, is not a job for the frail or queasy. Some governments, such as Montgomery and Prince George's counties, will remove deer at no cost, even from private back yards.

The problem grew so big in Montgomery County -- from a couple of hundred dead deer a year to a couple of thousand -- that the county now hires a "deer contractor" to handle it within 24 hours, said Steve Bartlett, field supervisor for the county's animal service. "People were throwing their backs out, picking up the deer," he said.

As in the District, many other cities and counties collect dead animals from roads but not private property. Maryland's Department of Natural Resources provides residents with a list of licensed "Nuisance Wildlife Cooperators," who will remove an animal for a fee. That can reach $375 for deer retrieval and disposal, by one company's estimate.

"We get frustrated calls all the time," said Sisco, of the Wildlife Rescue League. People don't like spending that much to remove a deer, she said.


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