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Several white-tailed deer feed on a haystack Wednesday in Streeter. Photo by John M. Steiner / Forum Communications Co.

Deer invasion eclipses human population of small ND town

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STREETER, N.D. - There could be more deer than people in Streeter.

Residents estimate between 200 and 300 animals have taken shelter in the town now that deep snow and cold weather have made the open prairie less welcoming. That gives the deer an edge in a town with 159 residents, according to the 2005 census estimate.

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It's prompted some residents to wonder how close they could get to the deer.

"I don't think you can pet one, but it's nothing to see them lying on your doorstep when you get up in the morning," said Gary Horst, a resident of Streeter and part of the lunch crowd at the Senior Citizens Center.

Edwin Dockter, a 94-year-old Streeter resident, had one idea what the deer were doing.

"They're eating shrubs," he said. "They'd get my last plum bush if it weren't covered with snow."

Dockter and others gathered at the senior center said deer were a regular winter occurrence in town.

"We expect to see deer in town in the winter," he said. "Probably were more when the elevator stored grain on the ground."

Wildlife biologists speculate the deer are using the town for shelter.

"It's easy traveling for the deer in towns," said Jason Smith, game management technician for North Dakota Game and Fish in Jamestown. "There is lots of snow cover, and it's pretty few and far between for good feed and cover out in the open country."

Streeter City Council member Doug Wittmier said no resident has made a formal complaint, so until one does, the city can't help find a solution.

Smith said predator pressure could also play a part in the overabundance.

"There are a lot of coyotes out there," he said. "Mange is down, so the coyote numbers are up, but if it was predator pressure, you might see the coyote pursue deer right into town."

Smith said in many small towns, the number of dogs in the community deters deer from entering town.

That doesn't seem to be the case in Streeter, where almost all the dogs are house dogs that spend limited time outdoors in the winter and are usually in fenced yards, Horst and Dockter said.

While the number of deer in town would certainly indicate a strong population, it didn't translate to easy hunting this past fall.

"During the hunting season, it was hard to find deer," Horst said. "Everyone had to work to even get a shot at anything."

Now he cautions travelers in town.

"Drive slow in town," Horst said. "Like 10 mph because they are everywhere."

Dockter warned that even walking the streets of Streeter can be a little dicey.

"I was walking to my sister's place when 50 or 60 got scared," he said. "I almost got run over."

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