Deer are becoming a problem along parts of the Greenway in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, and deer feeding is contributing to the issue, despite ordinances in both communities that prohibit feeding deer.
That’s one of the key findings from a postcard survey of residents who live along the Greenway on both sides of the river, said Gunnar Patz, a senior UND fisheries and wildlife biology major who conducted the survey.
Patz received a $5,000 Main Street GF Challenge grant last winter to launch the survey, working with Greenway coordinator Kim Greendahl, the Greenway Technical Committee and Jay Boulanger, a UND wildlife professor who left the university in July for a new position as president of White Buffalo Inc., a nonprofit conservation group headquartered in Connecticut.
The goal of the survey was to collect baseline data on the status of deer populations and depredation problems along the Greenway in the two communities.
As part of the survey, postcards with survey information were mailed in August to 1,500 residents living along the Greenway, along with information about responding to the survey either online or by filling out paper copies.
About 20% of the residents sampled responded to the survey. The wide range of responses was unexpected, Patz said.
Patz and Greendahl were on hand to present findings from the survey Monday night to the Grand Forks City Council and Tuesday night via Zoom to the East Grand Forks City Council.
“We were surprised in the comment section about how strongly some people felt about the deer population and the damage that they had been receiving to their yards,” Patz said in an interview. “Some people wrote huge paragraphs about how they really feel about the situation and some people said they loved the deer.”
Also of note, most of the respondents who had lived along the Greenway 10 years or more said they’ve seen an increase in deer numbers on or near their property. A few homeowners suggested hunting as a way to control deer numbers, but a hunt wasn’t among the 12 questions included in the survey.
The Greenway Technical Committee plans to continue periodic surveys and perhaps set up trail cameras in places to get a better handle on deer activity.
As a fisheries and wildlife biology student, Patz said the survey provided the opportunity to conduct research with significant management implications.
“I think it was an amazing experience – especially to give me a personal look into the beginning stages of a management plan for the deer population” in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, he said.