Those darn old deer. They get blamed for everything.
Farmers blame them for crop damage. Insurance agents blame them for higher premiums.
I even recall a teen-ager who took a curve too fast and totaled his mom's car. The official story: he swerved to miss a deer.
In Columbia County, deer are getting blamed for something entirely new: water pollution.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that one stream in Columbia County - Jones Creek - fails the federal clean water requirement for a contaminant called fecal coliform.
In layman's terms, that's mammal droppings - the bacteria from the intestinal tracts of warm-blooded creatures, including humans.
Because Jones Creek has unacceptable levels of fecal coliform, a lot of state and federal agencies are concerned.
The director of the EPA's Region IV Water Management Division expressed his concern to the chief of water protection for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
Both agencies ordered Columbia County to investigate. There have been environmental assessments and stakeholders meetings and surveys. But Jones Creek still has a pollution problem.
Typically, fecal coliform contamination originates from sources like leaking septic tanks, livestock operations and sewage spills.
Billy Clayton, the county's waterworks director, acknowledges there could be a few leaking septic tanks in the area. But there may be another piece to the puzzle: deer droppings.
"It all adds up to being the deer," Clayton said. "Their pellets decompose rapidly, and there are lots of them."
To bolster the "deer boo-boo" theory, county officials tested two other creeks - Kiokee and Euchee - and found wet-weather fecal coliform elevations there, too.
Unlike Jones Creek - which flows among 2,848 acres that include houses, a golf course and plenty of suburban deer - the other creeks have only undeveloped, deer-laden wilderness upstream.
That's why Clayton suspects it could be the deer that have contaminated Jones Creek.
The county is working with the CSRA Regional Development Council to come up with a plan to identify the sources of the fecal coliform and to develop and implement a plan to reduce the contamination.
So far, actions that have been discussed include a survey of septic tanks and asking neighborhood associations to recommend cleaning up after pet dogs.
Clayton will be watching the deer, too.
REWARD FOR TAGGED BASS: Fisheries biologists tagged and released 500 largemouths in Clarks Hill Lake last week as part of a study to determine the survival rates of Georgia's most popular sportfish.
The numbered, orange tags can be found on the bellies of the fish. Anglers who happen to catch one are encouraged to report it to the Department of Natural Resources, which is offering a reward of $5 per tag.
"The return of these tags will help the staff better evaluate the bass population in Clarks Hill Lake," said fisheries biologist Ed Bettross.
Data from returned tags will help determine natural and fishing mortality in the reservoir and also gauge the impact anglers have on the population.
Anglers can mail tags to DNR/WRD Fisheries, 142 Bob Kirk Road, Thomson, Ga., 30824; or call (706) 721-7409 for more information.
GROVETOWN ANGLER HONORED: Steve Teasley of Grovetown was honored recently with a Georgia Department of Natural Resources 2000 Angler Award for an outstanding catch: an 11-pound, 11-ounce hybrid bass.
The award honors those who catch trophy fish as part of the state's ongoing efforts to promote Georgia as a great state for fishing.
Teasley will receive a certificate and a patch embroidered with the specifics of his catch.
Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119.