By John Ramos

BELVEDERE (CBS SF) — The city of Belvedere is considering whether to fund a study of the local deer population’s DNA, and eventually, deer sterilization.

The tiny island city of Belvedere, located just off Tiburon in Marin County, takes up less than 2 square miles. But the city, like many islands, has become a haven for black-tailed deer.

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Residents in the small, wealthy city say the deer are around day and night and some are tired of having their landscaping used as a buffet.

Belvedere city manager Mary Neilan said, “A group of residents took it upon themselves to do some investigation into what could be done.”

They brought a proposal to city hall from a company that offers to capture the deer and release them after being surgically sterilized. It’s a controversial idea, but before the city council can even consider it there is one question that must be answered: How many deer are there on the island?

“Well, that’s something we don’t know,” Neilan said. “Some folks will tell you 25. Other folks think there’s closer to a hundred.”

But it’s not easy counting deer because they move around a lot.

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So, now there’s a proposal to count something that doesn’t move, their droppings.  A University of California at Davis professor said he can analyze DNA from deer droppings to determine the number and sex of individual animals.

But it won’t come cheap. Collecting an initial 100 samples will cost $17,000 and if they have to collect more it could cost up to $70,000.

“That’s a lot of money, Neilan said, explaining that the council will need to think hard about how that data will help them and if it’s worth it.

Belvedere resident Joy Reisner said she doesn’t mind the deer that sleep near her home. While she understands the deer can cause problems, she doesn’t think the city should be spending money to collect data from droppings.

“I don’t want to use my tax dollars to do that. So, if we get a vote I’m going to vote no,” Reisner said.

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The council is now considering the DNA study proposal since the city needs to know the size of the herd before it can get state permits for any deer management plan.