The Woodside Plantation Property Owners Association is planning a third deer count survey for early August.
The survey will ask residents basic questions about whether property owners have seen a reduction in deer browsing damage and in incidents involving deer and motor vehicles. The survey will not ask whether residents desire a another cull following the one in February.
Survey information will be directed to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources for review, which will provide guidance as to whether a deer herd reduction cull is warranted, according to a Thursday email from Charlie Call, president of the Woodside Plantation Property Owners Association.
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources recommended that Woodside consider performing the survey in August to get a more accurate count of female deer and their offspring, Call noted in an email to Woodside residents Wednesday.
Deer management timeline
Some Woodside residents began voicing concerns regarding property damage due to deer in 2014 .
The property owners association held a town hall meeting in August 2018 where, along with other topics, the deer situation was discussed.
"It was very clear that there were strong feelings on both sides of the issue that were well represented," Call said in a Wednesday email. "The town hall meeting provided further information regarding how strong feelings and opinions were again, directional but not definitive."
The Woodside Plantation Property Owners Association then conducted two online surveys, followed by one formal ballot vote to determine the extent of the problems Woodside residents were having with deer.
The first online survey was conducted in October 2015 with results indicating there was not enough support or reason to pursue any additional actions.
"At that time, the responses suggested that the majority of the property owners were against intervention," Call said.
A total of 858 responses were received from the 1,940 survey requests sent out.
A second online survey was conducted in May 2018, and the survey provided significant evidence of a growing deer problem.
In this survey, written comments were particularly supportive of deer herd management.
The Woodside Plantation Property Owners Association hired Folk Land Management Inc., a wildlife survey company, to conduct the first of two deer spotlight surveys on the nights of Nov. 19 and 20.
A total of 113 deer were recorded during the survey, according to an email sent to Call from S.C. Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Dean Harrigal on Dec. 9.
The deer density recorded each night indicates a high population of deer on the Woodside property, Harrigal wrote, and is comparable to some of the deer densities found in other gated communities in Bluffton and Hilton Head Island along South Carolina's coast.
The board decided to seek professional advice from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, followed by an official property owner vote, as to whether to take action on the deer issue by reducing the deer herd population of Woodside.
In 2019, the Woodside Plantation Property Owners Association voted in favor of harvesting deer in the area as a means of thinning the herd and hopefully reducing damage in the neighborhood.
Aiken City Council gave final approval Nov. 11 to the culling process with the passage of an amendment allowing the shooting of guns within city limits for "authorized and regulated wildlife culls."
Woodside Plantation currently consists of 2,100 homes and around 600 building lots – some owned by individuals and some owned by the developer of the community.
The cull was permitted to take place beginning the night of Feb. 5 after Woodside satisfied the requirements of the city of Aiken weapons discharge ordinance amendment in the form of paying a $6,250 fee.
The Woodside Treasurer's report shows that the February deer cull cost a total of $42,593 for the removal of 100 deer.
The final cost is a tally from the past two years including the implementation of the deer herd management program with the ballot sent to residents, the City of Aiken permit fees, the removal cost and meat processing costs, Call said.
Future cull considerations
Ongoing costs will include the annual deer count survey estimated at $4,000, which is required by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
The city still requires a fee of $6,250, and the sharpshooters that would conduct a future cull would require a fee of $200 per deer, Call stated in his email.
The sharpshooter cost includes providing pertinent information required for permitting from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and the city and processing the meat for donation to various charitable organizations in the area.