HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The vast woods of Stennis Space Center's 13,000 acres are home to hundreds and hundreds of deer. There could be as many as 1700 to 3200, according to Stennis Director Gene Goldman.
"We've got about twice as many deer as we should."
And, Goldman says, that's a problem. First, deer can dangerous. Signs are a testament to past accidents. But Goldman says the biggest reason Stennis needs to control the deer population is to protect the herd.
"The fact that we're seeing malnourishment at this point is indicative that we are taking the right steps at the right time," Goldman said.
Members of local hunting clubs are upset at how the deer are being killed.
"They're taking 200 head at night in means of head-lighting and they're shooting them in the head. The deer don't have a chance," hunting club member Gregg Lichtenstein said. "If I go headlight a deer at night, they're going to confiscate my truck, my guns, I could serve time. There are other ways to manage a deer herd than shooting a deer."
Stennis leaders say they looked at other solutions.
"We considered a range of options including potential birth control for deer, to allowing the deer population to take care of itself," Goldman said. "The state currently doesn't allow relocation because this overpopulation of deer exists statewide."
Hunting club members are allowed to hunt in the Stennis buffer zone three times a year, and aren't happy that state hunters are encroaching on their sport.
"We spend a lot of our time with our kids to keep them off the streets and come out here and enjoy this land and hunt on this land like they are supposed to," Lichtenstein said.
Lichtenstein says leave the deer alone and sport hunters could control the herd. But Stennis officials say that hasn't happened, and this is the best solution.
"Anytime we start removing part of our wildlife, we want to do it as humanely as possible. We believe what we did was make the most human decision that could be made," Goldman said. "This is not a case of deer hunting."