Tellico Village community debates merits of deer control

Morgan Simmons knoxnews.com

 
Residents of a picturesque subdivision on Tellico Lake are at odds this Christmas season over how to deal with white-tailed deer that are wandering onto neighborhood lawns.

Some residents of the Kahite neighborhood of Tellico Village say the deer problem has reached the point where action is needed to reduce the population by 80 to 100 animals, or roughly 25 percent of the herd.

Over the past several weeks some members of the Kahite neighborhood have proposed a plan that, if approved by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, would allow Kahite residents to hire a certified animal damage control company that would thin the herd by trapping deer in electronically-monitored snares and dispatching them with suppressed firearms. The venison would be donated to the Good Shepherd Center of Monroe County to feed the hungry, and the project would cost between $8,000 and $9,000, to be split among Kahite community members.

But some residents aren't buying it. Bill Orcutt, who has owned property at Kahite for 15 years, said the deer aren't a serious problem, and culling is not a practical solution.

"Deer come and go," Orcutt said. "We're not an island; there's an unlimited supply of deer from the surrounding area.

"Many people moved here because of the natural setting. Wildlife are a huge attraction to a great number of people, and I'm one of those (people)."

The Kahite neighborhood is located in Monroe County on the southeastern tip of Tellico Lake and is one of eight neighborhoods included in Tellico Village. Kahite has 700 residents (380 homes), and covers about 600 acres.

John Cherry, public relations manager for Tellico Village, said a committee from the Kahite neighborhood approached the Tellico Village Property Owners Association five years ago with a request to reduce the deer herd, but was turned down for lack of deer population estimates and accurate records of deer-vehicle collisions. Cherry said the Tennessee Department of Transportation generally keeps deer-vehicle strikes to a minimum in Tellico Village by maintaining mowed openings along major thoroughfares.

Cherry said deer overpopulation doesn't appear to be a pervasive problem throughout Tellico Village as a whole, which is located mostly in Loudon County.

"They're concentrated in small pockets in different neighborhoods, but it's not a communitywide problem," he said.

But Tom Greene, a Kahite resident who supports the herd-thinning plan, said studies indicate his neighborhood has approximately 400 deer six times greater than the density recommended by wildlife biologists based on the community's habitat and housing density.

"They kill small trees and destroy landscaping," Greene said. "We brought this up a few years ago and have been trying to address every concern previously raised."

A decision on the proposed deer reduction plan has been put on hold until after the holidays when public meetings are scheduled that will include neighborhood residents and TWRA.

Greene said the TWRA's animal damage control permit has not been officially issued, and that contrary to charges from opponents, the plan never was intended to go through without the consent of the Tellico Village Property Owners Association and the residents of the Kahite neighborhood.

"We formed a committee and we went out and did our research," Greene said. "Yes, there is a deer problem, but nothing has been approved, and won't be approved, until further discussion."

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1/4/16