Urban deer a hazard for U drivers

By By Aaron Vaughn

By Aaron Vaughn

During dark morning hours in the cold winter months, mule deer meander down from the foothills to nibble on shrubs and trees in the city.

The deer frequent areas within the U, causing potential hazards for commuters. They are often sighted near main arterial roadways such as Foothill Drive and University Boulevard.

“We’ve seen a couple (deer) get hit,” said Pamela Valdez, office manager of Mount Olivet Cemetery Association south of Rice-Eccles Stadium.

A resident deer herd frequently travels between Research Park and the V.A. medical center, often getting trapped by morning traffic, said Scott Folsom, U police chief.

“There are a lot of urban deer herds in the valley. Drivers should pay attention during dusk and dawn, when they are most active,” Folsom said.

Valdez said that one resident deer herd has even made a permanent home at the Mount Olivet cemetery, located along University Boulevard.

“We’ve (seen) a few broken legs,” Valdez said. “It’s rare, but we have to call the state to put them down.”

The cemetery deer “have it good,” she said. There are no predators within the fenced area, and after funeral precessions, the deer immediately eat the ceremonial flowers.

But the animals occasionally wander from Mount Olivet over University Boulevard’s six lanes of traffic to browse for food on U property.

Only one deer crossing sign at the 1580 East intersection warns eastbound drivers along University Boulevard of the hazard.

There is no sign warning westbound drivers, nor along Foothill as it nears the U campus.

“I don’t think that more signs will help,” said Sergeant Scott White, of the Utah Division of Wildlife Management.

Signs do not always leave a lasting picture in the drivers’ mind long enough to be effective, he said.

Although traffic around the U steadily increases, White says that driving speeds along roadways such as Foothill Drive are slow enough to be safe-if people stay under the limit.

Unfortunately, careful driving won’t stop the deer from being a nuisance.

Urban herds can travel with five to 20 head and often cross U property and surrounding streets en masse. They also loiter on U or even residential property in large groups.

“One resident I got a call from had 15 to 20 deer in her back yard,” said White. “If they are not feeding from somebody’s bird feeder, it’s usually somebody’s petunias or marigolds.”