There are 52 to 55 deer per quarter square mile at the Marshlands Conservancy, the Rye City Council learned from a conservation expert at its meeting Wednesday night.
Concerned about an increase of deer being hit by cars and grazing in their backyards, residents have been complaining about the burgeoning deer population in recent months.
The city worked with the county parks department and the Jay Heritage Center in considering deer management options and the council saw a presentation on the county’s “Adaptive Deer Management Program” at the meeting. Essentially, the program attempts to control the deer population by recruiting and paying experienced bow hunters to kill deer in county-run parks.
Most Greenhaven residents at the meeting supported the plan and one spoke against it, calling it “inhumane and wasteful.” The city council and community discussed the plan for over an hour.
Experts say deer are starving because they are so overpopulated they don’t have enough food and residents are complaining of the deer dangerously leaping across roadways and disrupting their gardens and backyards. Overpopulation also leads to the disappearance of shrubs and wildflowers, the decline of bird species and the increase of invasive plants that take over the understory, said John Baker of the Westchester County Parks Conservation, who gave the presentation.
Councilwoman Julie Killian noted the lack of vegetation along Manursing Way that she has noticed. Killian said she thought it was from Hurricane Sandy, but has now learned it is because of the deer.
“I am from the DPW and we pick up dead deer all the time, some are totally hurt,” a city employee said said. “It is time to do something.”
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Suzanne Cleary, director of the Jay Heritage Center, which abuts the Marshlands Conservancy, has agreed that deer are a problem at those sites, City Manager Scott Pickup said. Several residents of the Greenhaven section of Rye, west of the Marshlands, thanked the city for considering a plan to mitigate the problem on Wednesday night.
“The deer population has blossomed and it is very worrisome,” said one Greenhaven resident. “I have empathy with points on humane killing and that is an important factor to consider,” she said.
Chris Molinari, also a Greenhaven resident, spoke against the bowhunting plan. Molinari, a self-described “avid nature lover,” discussed facts from 24 studies on bowhunting that said the practice is inhumane and wasteful. There is a higher possibility of deer just being wounded than killed instantaneously and the hunting plan would just leave a wounded and crippled deer population, she claimed.
Prior to the public comments, Baker gave a presentation that explained bowhunting is currently being used in other parts of the county.
They do deer searches and track wounded deer, he said.
This is the county’s fifth year of deer management, and they have been running it in four different parts and areas, Baker said. A county study found that hunting is the best method; it is the safest, the best for forest regeneration and the best way to support native tree species, he said.
With no mitigation, “within seven years you’ll have over forty deer (when you started with) just two,” Baker said.
Greenhaven resident Norman Cooper said the problem has been getting worse in recent years and he found several baby deer in his backyard that morning. He felt the plan wouldn’t do much to help residents.
Councilwoman Brett asked if hunting deer in public parks would push them more into residential areas. Baker said that was a possibility.
Mayor Douglas French explained this was the first of many discussions about deer management to come and Pickup told the council he would report back with more details on how city resources, like police presence, would factor into the plan.
Key Points from the Adaptive Deer Management presentation:
-The program is aimed to effectively and efficiently reduce the deer population in county parks to a level that alls forest regeneration and to reach this goal in the safest manner possible for the public and hunters
-Parks where the program is run would not be closed during hunting.
- They measure success by counting pellets to estimate deer population and run browse impact surveys to monitor regeneration (they check what the deer are eating.)
- The program is run as stealth as possible within parks. Hunters are expected to hunt for 15 days, the harvest must “earn-a-buck,” and they are expected to exercise good judgment and act as ambassadors to the program (explain what they do and why they do it to the public.) Hunters are required to check in, report deer and carry proper identification. If deer need to be retrieved from private property, hunters must receive landowner’s permission. They are not allowed to hunt within 500 feet of private property.
-Hunters must use tree stands.
- It is adaptive, so the program differs from park to park.
You can view the full presentation here.
Are deer a problem in your neighborhood? What do you think of the bowhunting plan? Please share your thoughts in the comments.