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Deer count study done at Edisto reveals deer count healthy, officials say residents should stop feeding deer

The results of a deer population study conducted at Edisto Beach earlier this year now show that there is no excessive population of deer that are negatively impacting the residents’ lives. The study does state that people feeding deer at certain parts of the beach are contributing to a high number of deer in the area.
Officials with the Town of Edisto Beach called for the study in October after some of the town’s residents complained to the council about the perceived high number of deer inside the town’s limits. Specifically, Edisto Beach residents said the deer get aggressive during the rut season, and that the deer are eating their landscaped or planted vegetation.
Based on these complaints, town officials approved funding to hire a company - Folks Land Management - to perform an independent deer population study.
The company counted the number of deer on land at the beach and has now made recommendations for deer population management.
In their study, Folk Land Management conducted a deer spotlight survey in the Town of Edisto Beach from Nov. 13-Nov. 14th. This included approximately 301.7 acres, which represents 21 percent of the actual land in the town’s limits. During the study’s time frame, officials with Folk Land Management observed 91 deer. Most of these deer sightings occurred on approximately 6.6 acres of the 301.7 acres included in the study.
“This is a relatively high deer density and comparable to some of the deer densities found in the gated communities in the Bluffton/Hilton Head area,” according to the study’s results.
The study goes on to state that 45 of the observed 91 deer were found in one specific zone: Zone 3. This zone is an oblong loop that runs down the strip, away from the town’s main entrance and away from the primary commercial area.
“It is quite likely supplemental feeding of the deer by homeowners in Segment 3 contributes greatly to the high numbers observed in this segment during the survey,” the study states.
Additionally, the study states that the observed deer all looked healthy and that the deer did not “browse” on native vegetation or landscape plants. The study says deer are likely only eating landscaped plants because these are the native plants that deer normally eat.

“You had mentioned that deer browsing on landscape plants was a common landowner complaint. Closer examination would likely reveal browsing on native plants that are preferred foods of deer,” the study states.

“In summary, from a biological perspective, the deer are in good health, and there is an absence of any signs of major habitat destruction from over-population. Public safety issues by professional officials are not at a high level of concern. Based upon our conversations, landscape damage by deer in certain areas of the town is a homeowner concern,” the study states.
The study says town officials should discourage residents from feeding deer, and also encourage residents to use plants in their landscaping plans that are resistant to deer “browsing.”
Edisto Beach Town Administrator Iris Hill says there are no ordinances in the town that address feeding wildlife. Although, she says town officials do “discourage” residents from feeding any wildlife. Now, Hill says Edisto Beach Town Council will continue to monitor the situation. Based on the study results, she said the council has no plans to take any immediate action on this matter.
This was not the first time residents have inquired about deer in the coastal town. Based on town residents’ requests, Edisto Beach officials and S.C. Department of Natural Resources did an informal study of the deer population in town limits in 2014 and again in 2015.
In those instances, S.C. Department of Natural Resources evaluated the deer population and determined that the town’s vegetation was “sufficient” to sustain the deer.
“If the town were to undertake a depredation or control program (i.e., culling or some other non-lethal approach), that would require a permit issued by the SCDNR,” David Lucas, director of Media and Outreach for S.C. DNR’s Charleston-area office said in a prior interview to The Colletonian.

Heather Walters (1678 Posts)