Tega Cay deer problem sparks debate on how it should be handled

Say the word deer around some Tega Cay residents and you will know exactly how they feel about them.
The small city of Tega Cay, has a big problem with deer.
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 5:56 PM EDT
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TEGA CAY, S.C. (WBTV) -The city of Tega Cay has a major deer problem.

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently did a study in Tega Cay and called the deer population in the small area “ridiculously high.”

The city manager says five years ago, people were seeing a lot of deer because of socialization. That means the area grew so much the deer did not have a place to go and were spotted a lot more. Now, DNR says it is just pure overpopulation. Now the city has to weigh its options—what to do about the deer. WBTV did some digging into their options and why it could cost either hundreds or thousands of dollars.

The city manager says the city is walking a tightrope here. Some people love the deer and think it’s a quirk to have so many in the area. Others say it is a problem that could eventually hurt someone or worse.

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Say the word deer around some Tega Cay residents and you will know exactly how they feel about them.

”It kinda feels like we’re living with them not the other way around,” says Robby Hart.

Robby Hart has lived in Tega Cay for 13 years. He saw the population grow but what is more nerve-wracking for him is seeing how bold they have gotten.

”At one point, they would see you and just get out of the way. As the years have gone, they don’t get out the way, they will just stare you down,” says Hart.

Hart’s seen deer walking down the trails, in the middle of the road and even got this video of a fawn born in his backyard. While his dog has not had any run-ins at his house, Pam Gibbes says her dog has.

”She charged him and he did the submission thing on his back and she put her hoof through his chest,” says Gibbes.

Thankfully, the dog was ok. However, Gibbes’ vet told her more dogs had been coming in with injuries from deer attacks. Just like Hart, Gibbes constantly sees these deer in her backyard eating her plants and forcing her to pick up deer poop.

”There were two lying in my backyard yesterday and I went out and said shoo get out of her shoo. Didn’t even phase them,” she explains.

The problem is so bad, Tega Cay’s city manager says the council is considering taking action.

”We knew this was going to be a very polarizing topic amongst our community,” says city manager Charlie Funderburk.

Funderburk tells WBTV’s South Carolina reporter Morgan Newell that the city sent out a survey to residents asking them what to do. From the last check of the submitted surveys, he says it is about dead even for choosing to get rid of the deer or keeping them. This is with almost 2,000 submissions and counting, according to Funderburk.

”Half the city is very very concerned about it and wants something done and it appears that half the city is just ok with it,” he says.

He speculates some of the concern comes from how the city plans to handle the deer. If people vote to get rid of the deer, the city plans to use sharpshooters to kill the animals.

”I know that’s a scary thing for people and that’s not lost on council at all,” he explains.

Newell asked Funderburk if they have considered other, more humane options but he says those aren’t economically feasible. Funderburk says the city needs to get rid of more than 400 deer. The sharpshooters cost taxpayers $200 dollars per deer. The other two methods, relocation and sterilization, cost taxpayers $1200 dollars per deer.

”It’s not an easy decision but it’s going to have to be a decision council will make in the very near future,” he says.

Gibbes says she wants something done sooner rather than later.

”We have a problem and something needs to be done,” says Gibbes.

If the council decides to get rid of the deer with the sharpshooters, the deer meat will be donated to food banks across the state. There is no set date on when this decision will be made.