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Matt Alice:

On the streets that go through the canyons of Mira Mesa and Sorrento Mesa, you'll see yellow caution signs advising of deer. There used to be several herds there before Mira Mesa was built. Are there still really any deer left in these areas between 805 and 15? And thanks to the person(s) who each Christmas place red balloon noses on the deer signs.

-- Curious Ken, Cardiff by the Sea

Mira Mesa by the Concrete is devoid of mule deer, natch. But Barry Martin of the San Diego Tracking Team has some kinda' good news. SDTT is a group of trained volunteers that do local wildlife surveys (mammals, mainly) to follow population trends. According to Barry, we're not exactly San Deerego, but our few remaining niches of open space do support some healthy herds. The closest group to Curious Ken's ground zero lives in Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, 75 to 100 individuals, Barry offers. But since there's nothing a deer needs that it can buy at a mall, they generally stick to the canyons themselves. The signs you see have been there since the earliest days of mesa development. (Barry was cagey about the hard numbers, perhaps because of his claim that SDTT population data have been massaged beyond recognition in Environmental Impact Reports.)

Deer follow historical migration patterns around their territories, related to seasonal food and water availability. Just because we build a four-lane, 50-mph road across those paths doesn't mean they'll immediately change decades (centuries?) of habit. The Mira Mesa deer signs went up when the first roads went in to try to reduce the inevitable road kill, though Barry says the worst deer slaughter he can recall happened when Scripps Ranch was built. The SDTT advocates wildlife tunnels in new developments to protect traditional migration corridors and connect pockets of green space too small to support many animals.

So on the up-side, what species are booming in San Diego? Skunks, possums, and raccoons-- living large around succulent landscaping, sheltering redwood decks, and the all-you-can-eat smorgasbord in the average suburban garbage can. The web site is being rebuilt, but if you want to contact the tracking team, try www.sdtt.org.

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