Deer Problem Concerns Airport

Planes Damaged; Deer Killed
KCRA-TV Ch 3, Sacramento (CA)
GROVELAND, Calif. — Many pilots who fly into Tuolumne County’s Pine Mountain Lake Airport say Mother Nature is taking the fun out of a longtime hobby. Pilots who land at the airport are trying to compete for space on the runway with deer. Placerville resident Larry Robertson says he has never seen anything like it.

“Twice we’ve had to use the go-around because of deer on the runway, or close enough that we were concerned about it,” Robertson said.

“They usually don’t loiter on the runway, but they like to cross the runway. Sometimes that occurs when an airplane is either taking off or landing,” said airport director Jim Thomas.

Airport officials say that before using the private airport, pilots must read a manual informing them that deer are on or in the vicinity of the airport.

There have been several planes damaged and several deer killed on one of the runways, according to Thomas. He says he worries that it is only a matter of time before people get hurt.

“The biggest concern is that an aircraft would hit a deer and the airplane would obviously be damaged, possibly go off the runway, hopefully not, but injure some passengers,” Thomas said.

Local residents estimate that more than 1,000 deer roam the area. And with several homes nearby, officials say some people are feeding the animals, making the problem worse.

Now, residents are trying to find solutions to stop the creatures from taking over the airport. Officials say 90 percent of the residents agree the deer should be shot as a last resort, even though it is not legal.

“I don’t want to break the law to try and thin it out. But if I have to, then, I guess, that’s what needs to be done,” said area resident Adam Powell.

“I’ve had one local resident trying to work with the Oakland Zoo to try to get us wildcat manure, try to place that to scare the deer,” Thomas said.

Other ideas include installing electric fences. Airport officials say installing an electric fence around the runway would cost them about $25,000 and may not happen until next year.

Another option is to pay someone $500 a week to chase the deer off the runway.