Evolution of City Deer September 16, 2010 California

Deer season opens Saturday 9/16/2010 San Francisco Chronicle 

Tom Stienstra, Chronicle Outdoors Writer

In the field, a bigger issue is that two kinds of deer are evolving in Northern California: the soft, live-in-your-backyard pet-like domesticated deer and the people-shy, muscular, edgy wild deer that belong to migratory herds in the mountains. They couldn't be more different.

As urban population has moved into deer habitat, especially in the foothills of the Bay Area and Sierra, the backyard deer will spend its entire life in about a five-mile radius, according to Fish and Game radio collar tracking studies. These deer get used to people, dodging dogs, and are on the lookout to avoid getting hit by a car or nailed by a mountain lion. Only a poacher would raise a firearm to one.

In the Sierra Nevada, these pet-like animals have largely replaced the once-great wild migratory deer herds, the thousands of animals that once lived in high country in summer, then migrated down to the foothills for the winter. According to the DFG, the migration has been blocked slowly over time by subdivisions, roads, shopping centers and highways.

The migratory herds of wild deer that remain intact are in the more remote north state and eastern slopes, and in some cases, the high country of the Sierra. Mountain lions, which pay no attention to hunting rules, are their biggest threat.

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