By Edie Schmierbach
The Mankato Free Press
ST PETER — ST. PETER — Scott and Linda Zuhlsdorf of St. Peter wanted to see what kind of critter was tearing up their flowers during nighttime raids. Last fall, they set up a Trail Cam in the backyard of their Jackson Street residence.
The culprits caught on camera — a family of deer — were much larger than the neighborhood's usual suspects in garden crimes, rabbits and squirrels.
"There were three eating apples off the tree," Scott said.
This winter, the Zuhlsdorfs have noticed deer visit so often there are trails around the snow drifts behind the house.
Tracks made by does and bucks have become common on St. Peter's south side, especially on Front Street and near the intersection of Highway 169 and Highway 22.
"Because of the proximity to the river, there's always lots of wildlife in that area and that includes deer," said Community Officer Janet Thompson, who handles animal control issues for St. Peter Police.
"There are more and more calls about deer each year, it seems," Thompson said.
"The biggest concern with them being in residential areas is they can cause accidents," she said. This winter, wooded areas in other parts of St. Peter and Minnesota Square Park have become favorite hangouts for the hoofed animals.
Thompson's advice for motorists is to be aware of the city's deer population. Honking a horn may or may not scare them off a road.
"There's not really any way to tell what they will do. They are wild animals."
Complaints about near misses on roads close to the river bottoms prompted City Administrator Todd Prafke to put out a deer alert in St. Peter's Hot Sheet newsletter.
Prafke and Thompson concur the animals are roaming about looking for food.
Some residents enjoy visits from deer and they provide enticements.
"They are nice to see and they are pretty," Thompson said.
But it's not good to dump corn on the ground for them. Providing a backyard banquet for deer is a bad idea.
When herded together to share food it's more likely they will transfer saliva and spread disease, according to a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' website. Wildlife may become dependent on food provided by humans, and when that source is taken away, there may be starvation or other problems for the animals.
"We don't have any special rules against feeding deer," Prafke said.
"We do have rules againsts rodents and I call them (deer) rodents," he joked.