As students continue to move off-campus, deer are making themselves at home on University grounds.
“It was really random because it wasn’t in a forest or anything,” said Lacy McKee, a first-year communication studies major who saw a deer on campus. “It was just walking in the parking lot.”
McKee said she was walking to eat dinner at Chase Dining Hall with her roommate when they saw a deer by Ehringhaus Residence Hall. She said the sighting could be due to the lack of people on campus.
“I feel like (the deer) would be scared to walk over there in the parking lot next to the baseball field if it wasn’t for there not being cars or people over there," she said.
McKee said she had not had an experience like this on campus before.
“It didn’t seem afraid at all," she said. “It was just moseying around looking for grass.”
Gwyn Gassaway, a senior exercise and sport science major, said she and her friend were walking near Davis Library when they saw a deer near the dorms.
“There was just a ginormous deer right on the side of the road and people were passing it," Gassaway said. "They were getting within inches and could have touched it, and the deer wasn’t moving or doing anything."
Gassaway said she thought it was an odd scene, so she got up close and took a video of the deer, which was later posted on Instagram by UNC Barstool.
“We pulled out our cameras because we thought it was funny and we got close and he did not even move,” Gassaway said.
Elizabeth Youssef, a sophomore political science major, was walking around campus when she saw a deer on the quad near Franklin Street.Youssef said she has not been on campus much recently with everything going on — but she decided to venture there to get some studying done.
“I ended up losing my debit card and was in the process of looking for it when I saw the deer and I was so curious so I took pictures and a video of it,” she said.
Youssef said there were several other people around who were getting close to the deer to observe it and take some photos.
“I was not expecting to see a deer when I was on campus, so it was a pretty crazy experience and just another funny and random thing to happen during all this pandemic nonsense,” Youssef said.
Peter White, a professor in the biology department at UNC, said the deer population in Chapel Hill has been increasing over the years, which could explain the increased sightings on campus.
“Since the 1980s, the regional deer population in areas like Chapel Hill, that are suburban and areas with low hunting, the net trend over time is that there are much more deer,” White said. “There are more deer in my backyard. There are more deer on campus and more deer at Battle Park than historically. So, the regional population has increased.”
White said while it cannot be proven one way or another, it is a rational idea that deer are coming on campus more often since there are less students there.
“We know from other places that wildlife in general are more active in the absence of people,” White said. “So it is a plausible rationale.”
White said the increased sightings on campus could also be due to students or other community members feeding the deer.
“Any species of wildlife that gets fed by people, whether it’s raccoons, or whether the feeding is purposeful or accidental by leaving the garbage out, will respond to the availability of food,” White said. “So that kind of thing could have been going on in terms of the increasing sightings issue.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.