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Aiken City Council reviewing change that would enable deer cull in Woodside community

The Aiken City Council is considering an update to city code that would allow guns to be shot within city limits if used for authorized wildlife culls, according to the latest batch of City Council meeting documents.

Both the city's attorney, Gary Smith, and Aiken Department of Public Safety Chief Charles Barranco have signed off on the language, which requires an issued permit from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and notification ahead of time.

The amendment, requiring two readings and two approvals, would enable a licensed team to shoot deer in Woodside Plantation, City Manger Stuart Bedenbaugh said Friday. The sprawling neighborhood earlier this year voted in favor of killing and harvesting – and thus removing – deer in the area.

The vote was conducted via mail-in referendum. It passed by a noticeable margin: 1330 for, 746 against, according to City Council documents.

The Woodside Plantation Property Owners Association did not consult the city before the referendum, City Council documents state. The current code prevents such a cull from moving forward.

"We've certainly heard from the group. They've done a survey of their residents," Mayor Rick Osbon said Friday. "I think it's something … that they deserve an answer on."

Woodside Plantation residents have repeatedly complained of deer proliferation and resultant property damage, according to documents collated for City Council's Aug. 12 meeting. A deer-spotting survey conducted in September 2018 culminated in a report stating there was a "high population of deer" throughout the gated community.

"A deer population of this density can lead to human/deer conflicts including deer-vehicle accidents and browse damage to landscape plants," reads the report, which was handled by Folk Land Management Inc.

Aiken City Council member Ed Girardeau, whose district includes a portion of Woodside Plantation, on Friday said he was neither specifically for nor against the measure but supported "Woodside having the right to do what they need to do under" the department's supervision.

"I understand the problem," Girardeau said, describing the prospective thinning as a "supervised situation" and "not open season."

"Woodside wishes to actively manage our deer herd via the use of sharpshooting," reads a presentation included in City Council's meeting packet.

City Council member Andrea Gregory, whose district also includes a portion of the neighborhood, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Deer culls are nothing new in South Carolina. Similar campaigns have played out in Lowcountry communities, namely around Hilton Head.

Wildlife management practices are backed by state law. SCDNR has a 12-point urban deer management guideline document available online.

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