Sightings of Sitka black-tailed deer more commonplace

Posted: Monday, June 18, 2001

SEWARD (AP) -- Sightings of Sitka black-tailed deer are becoming more commonplace around Seward.

Getting to Seward is no easy task for the small deer, which stand only a few feet high. But they are prolific swimmers and are thought to island hop during mild winters from Prince William Sound, swimming in the Nellie Juan drainage and into the south fork of Snow River -- a trip of more than 100 miles, said Tom Lowy, a Fish and Wildlife Protection state trooper.

The deer have been sighted from Anchor Point to Seward, said Ted Spraker, Kenai Peninsula area wildlife biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game.

One young doe recently died on Nash Road near the prison after being hit by a car, according to Seward Police Officer Doreen Valadez. The deer was donated to charity. Nash Road resident Patty Johnson spotted a deer early last month and is on the lookout for more.

''I'm keeping an eye out,'' she said. ''They're just gorgeous.''

Johnson is aware of at least four deer being sighted in the area last year and is tickled this year's first encounter apparently survived the winter.

Even though the Sitka black-tailed's numbers and range are increasing in the Seward area, predators and the Kenai Peninsula's often-severe winters keep their numbers low, Spraker said.

''They're kind of like the tide, they just kind of come and go,'' Spraker said.

Kodiak and Southeast Alaska contain a dense population of deer, as do islands in Prince William Sound, Spraker said. Hunters flock to Montague Island in the Sound to hunt deer in the fall, where the bag limit for Alaska residents is five deer each per season.

Transplanting the animals has not been successful on the Kenai Peninsula.

The territorial government introduced seven Sitka black-tailed deer from Southeast Alaska to Homer in 1923, Spraker said.

''They disappeared, never to be seen again,'' he said.

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