In 2021 and 2022, there were just over 1,000 white-tailed deer that died mainly due to car collisions in New Braunfels and, as a result, city officials will be partnering with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to manage the population and bring it down to levels that are healthier for the animals and the environment.

What's happening

Car accidents, water quality issues and landscaping damage are just a few consequences Amy Niles, the city's watershed and river manager, said could be the result of the overrun deer population in New Braunfels at an Oct. 16 meeting.

Greg Malatek, the city's public works director, said that deer can be found throughout the city but that they are especially present at Landa Park and its golf course because of the proximity to water.

The city has some initiatives in place to manage the "overabundant" wildlife like its ordinance against feeding wildlife, Niles said, though some council members noted that they have seen many residents and visitors at the park feeding animals, usually without being cited or issued a fine from the police department.

Additionally, the city contracts a service to have animal waste picked up from the park twice a month, which averages 100 pounds per visit, which has a negative impact when it washes into the city's spring system and Comal River.

Not only does the population pose a risk to the city's water, but deer have showed signs of malnutrition or poor health, often looking emaciated.

Jessica Alderson, a wildlife biologist with the TPWD, said that this is not an issue specific to New Braunfels but rather statewide.

While deer estimates are unknown in the city, she said that the number of dead deer picked up annually points to a continued rise in population.

This could be an especially critical time for the city to take action as the TPWD predicts the deer population throughout the state to rebound and have higher harvest numbers thanks to rain earlier this spring.

What's being done

One of the more popular options to eliminate potential environmental risks and boost the health of the deer population is trapping. Traps would be set up throughout the city, and the deer that are caught would most likely be harvested; the deer meat would be processed and donated to a local or regional food bank to feed those in need.

However, Alderson said that the most important component of this option is education and outreach to the community, which is something the TPWD would assist in.

Jumping straight into trapping deer without proper outreach could cause a lot of damage within the community, Alderson said, which she said has happened before and has caused upset throughout cities.

Cost to the city

The service fee for trapping deer would cost the city between $360-$410 per animal. There will also be a mandatory chronic wasting disease test for the first 15 deer trapped, which amounts to $2,400.

Alderson said that the disease is reminiscent of mad cow disease, in which the animal experiences a neurological decline. In deer, the disease is fatal, and most don't live for more than three years after contracting it.

While there is a large startup cost for the trapping, it is expected to decrease over time as the population reaches more stable levels, Alderson said.

What's next?

City staff will work through the winter to create a report on the status of the deer population and to create a plan for moving forward by the spring.

Once proper outreach is completed and the consensus among the community is positive, the city can then apply for the appropriate permit and begin trapping in time for the season next October.