Deer Management

Deer Management Program
The City of Lakeway is widely known for its heavy population of urban deer. For the most part, deer are considered to be a desirable asset for the city. Their affable behavior and cute appearance make them attractive to most people. Their diminished fear of humans is also interesting and adds to their desirability. It is quite a unique situation to have so many deer in proximity of homes.

We have white-tailed deer in Lakeway. The white-tailed deer, also known simply as the whitetail, is a medium-sized deer found throughout most of the continental United States. The deer's coat is a reddish brown in the spring and summer and turns to a grayish brown throughout the fall and winter. The whitetail can be recognized by the characteristic white underside to its tail, which it shows as a signal of alarm by raising the tail during escape.

Males re-grow their antlers every year. A buck's antlers can spread up to 25 inches in width. Bucks shed their antlers from late December to February. In mid to late spring, generally in May or June, does give birth to one, two or even three spotted young known as fawns. Fawns lose their spots during the first summer and will weigh from 44 to 77 pounds by their first winter. Male fawns tend to be slightly larger and heavier than females.

The whitetail is a ruminant that can eat a variety of food, digesting it at a later time in a safe area of cover. In the wild, whitetail deer eat large varieties of food, commonly eating legumes and foraging on other plants, including shoots, leaves, cactus, and grasses. They also eat acorns, fruit, and any kind of corn. In urban settings, whitetails will quickly adapt to eating residential landscape.

Many generations of deer have lived their entire lives within the city in very close proximity to people. Therefore, they have all but lost their fear of human beings. This, combined with a lack of natural predation, causes a proliferation of whitetails that will result in overpopulation. This is not healthy for the deer or humans. When overcrowded, deer can suffer from a lack of forage and become malnourished and diseased. They are also more likely to be struck by cars or become caught up in unnatural barriers such as fences. Overcrowded deer also become a nuisance to residents by damaging landscape plants and causing unsafe driving conditions. Deer-vehicle collisions are often fatal to the deer and can be fatal to the occupants of the vehicle. If not fatal, many vehicle collisions also leave the animals suffering from crippling injuries.

To mitigate overpopulation, Lakeway has established a deer management program that functions much like natural predation. Deer are trapped and removed from the city in the fall and winter in order to maintain a healthy and safe deer population.

What can you do to help? First and foremost, resist the urge to feed deer. Feeding them will ultimately cause them distress. It disrupts their natural behavior and encourages them to congregate and lose their natural fear of humans. These behaviors cause the deer to become unnaturally dependent upon us. Also, wildlife biologists advise us that corn is unhealthy for deer, and they typically advise not to feed deer at all. The best thing you can do is leave the deer alone. Do not interact with them and enjoy them from a distance. 

The City of Lakeway has an ordinance, which prohibits the feeding of deer, provides for population-control measures, and provides for penalties for intentional disruption of deer-control activities.Any person who violates the provisions of this ordinance commits a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $1 and not more than $500.

Managing Overabundant White-Tailed Deer
For more information on managing overpopulation of white-tailed deer, click here.

Deer Resistant Plants
Because of the unpredictable nature of our deer, there are few absolutely "deer resistant" plants. The deer normally travel in small herds in familiar routes or paths. They browse on plants that appear on their path. Thus deer may eat a certain plant in the back yard, but not in the front yard of the same house. As drought and heat conditions worsen, the deer will resort to eating plants not normally eaten just to survive.

From the following list, the plants coded as "N" are plants that are "never or rarely" eaten by deer, so these are the plants most likely to survive. The plants coded as "S" are "sometimes" eaten by the deer, depending upon the many variables of the deer browsing patterns and stress brought on by the weather conditions.

The Butterfly Garden, located on the Upper Trail in City Park, includes many varieties of the plants from the list, as examples of "deer resistant" plants growing in our Hill Country soil.

The following list includes many of the more popular and readily available plants that recent experience has shown to survive the deer browsing. Unfortunately, due to the unpredictability of the deer, we cannot give any guarantees of success.

Bluestem, Big and Little (N); Gulf Coast Muhly (N); Island Sea Oats (S) Lindheimer Muhly (N); Mexican Feather Grass (N); Pampas Grass (N); Purple Fountain Grass (N).

Aloe spp. (S); Bee Balm (S); Chives (S); Copper Canyon Daisy (S); Germander (S); Lamb's Ears (N); Lavender (S); Lemon Balm (S); Lemon Grass (N); Lemon Mist (S); Mexican Marigolf Mint (S); Mexican Oregano (S); Mint spp. (S); Oregano (S); Russian Sage (N); Snatolina, Green (N); Society Garlic (N); Tarragon (N); Thyme (S).

Perennials & Wildflowers
Artemesia (N); Bi-color Iris (S); Blanketflower (N); Bluebonnet (S); Butterfly Weed (S); Cassia spp. (S); Clasping Leaf Coneflower (S); Cleome, Spiderflower (S); Daffodils (S); Dahberg Daisy (S); Damiantia (N); Datura spp. (N); Dusty Miller (S); Englemann Daisy (S); Flame Acanthus (S); Horsemint (S); Indigo Spires (N); Iris spp. (S); Jerusalem Sage (S); Mexican Hat (S); Oriental Poppy (S); Ox-eye Daisy (S); Paintbrush, Texas/Indian (S); Periwinkle (N); Primrose, Pink Evening (S); Salvia, Victoria Blue (S); Salvia Indigo Spires (S); Silver Germander (N); Skull Cap (S); St. John's Wart (S); Zermenia (S).

Trees & Shrubs
Abelia spp. (S); Agarita (N); Agave (N); Boxwood (N); Buddleia (S); Bur Oak (S); Buford Holly (S); Cactus spp. (S); Cedar Elm (S); Cenizo (Texas Sage) (S); Chinese Tallow (S); Chinquapin Oak (S); Conifers (S); Cottonwood (S); Desert Willow (N); Eleagnus spp. (N); Fig, common (N); Fragrant Mimosa (S); Juniper (S); Lantana Camara (S); Lantana Horrida (N); Live Oak (S); Mountain Laurel (N); Nandina (S); Nolina (N); Palms (N); Possumhaw Holly (S); Primrose Jasmine (N); Pyrachanta (S); Redbud (S); Retama (S); Rosemary (N); Salvia Greggii (S); Shumard Red Oak (S); Sumac, evergreen & flame leaf (S); Texas Ash (S); Texas Persimmon (S); Vitex (N); Wax Myrtle (S); Wright Acacia (S); Yellow Bells (S); Yew (Texas spp.) (S).

Vines & Ground Cover
Butterfly Vine (S); Carolina Jassmine (N); Verbena (S); Vinca (S).