Questions and Answers about Sharpshooting to control deer

Town of Greenwich


Deer Population Reduction using special DEP sharpshoot permit.

Questions and Answers


1)    Q.  Why does a town or homeowners' association consider using sharpshooting? 

A.  Sharpshooting is used to reduce the white-tailed deer population on town-owned properties or by Homeowner Associations by conducting a sharp shoot cull over bait.  This method is used as an initial rapid culling of the herd size to get the herd down to safe and manageable levels in residential areas where it is difficult to remove enough deer using recreational bow hunting.  Using highly trained and skilled sharpshooters makes the deer control program safe, discrete and effective over a far shorter period than would be the case using archery. Use of sharpshooting avoids the creation of "smart" deer who avoid bait sites where they have seen fellow members of their herd culled.  In a report completed by Howard Kilpatrick of CT DEP in July 2003, he concluded that bow hunters might not be able to achieve herd reduction goals in a town like Greenwich without changes to existing hunting regulations.  In addition, parcels that are maintained as town parks are heavily used and it would be difficult to restrict public access to the parks for the number of days needed to do the initial cull through hunting.  The size of many town parcels makes it difficult to allow multiple uses at the same time.

      Long-term maintenance of the herd size can then include bow hunting and/or fertility control when available and if feasible.  A complete service is provided and the cost of the initial cull includes consultation and planning, suggestions formonitoring the success of the management plan, applying for necessary permits plus processing the meat for delivery to the soup kitchen.

2)    Q.  When should a town consider using sharpshooters?

A.  Usually a Conservation Commission or Deer Committee will be asked to report on the need for deer management. The findings may indicate that the Town has an over-population deer with over 25 deer per sq mile.  The average deer density in Fairfield County, Connecticut, for example, has reached 60 deer per sq mile according to the latest (2009) detailed DEP aerial survey. Wildlife biologists estimate that normal deer populations average between 10-20/sq mi, depending on available habitat.   The overpopulation of deer is directly correlated to incidences of Lyme Disease and deer/vehicular accidents.  In addition, the over-abundant deer populations take a toll on the biodiversity of forests because of the heavy deer browse.  This has a negative impact on many species of plants and animals that should thrive in the forest under story. 

To protect the health and safety of its residents and the maintain its ecological heritage, the Commission would recommend that the town deer herd size be reduced to less than 20 deer/sq mi within say 3 years. In Greenwich, for example, the Commission further recommended that the Town take the lead by actively reducing the herd size on Town properties and promoting hunting on private lands.

3)    Q.  How does the town conduct this herd reduction program?

A.  Some towns have hired White Buffalo, Inc., a non-profit wildlife management organization, to conduct the cull and assist with developing a long-term maintenance plan for the town.  The principal staff is Anthony DiNicola, PhD who coordinates with the Conservation or Planning Dept and works closely with the First Selectman’s office, Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Police Department.

4)    Q.  Why use a sharp shooting program?

A.  Safety - 
The number one priority of everyone involved in reducing the deer herd size is public health and safety.  The use of sharp shooting in a controlled predation cull is the safest way to do this in a residential community such as Greenwich, CT or Princeton, NJ.  Professional wildlife managers who use strict protocol and work closely with local law enforcement personnel perform the cull.  The program uses suppressed firearms and shoot only over bait in selected areas that are specifically chosen with appropriate backdrops (such as a hillside).  These cull zones are reviewed by local law enforcement to ensure that they meet all public safety concerns.  No discharging of firearms will take place outside of the designated baited cull zones.

Humane treatment – The decision to cull a deer herd is not made easily.  The removal of natural predators from the ecosystem, however, has created a void that a predation cull fills to ensure proper wildlife management.  Sharp shooting over bait allows the wildlife professional to kill deer quickly and efficiently without prolonged duress to the animal.

Efficiency – The town or community would be engaging in a deer management program that has established significant reduction in herd size as a goal.  Although bow hunting is an important management tool, an initial cull will reduce levels immediately.  Deer management studies recognize that bow hunters might not be able to achieve herd reduction goals in residential areas.

5)    Q.  What permits are required?

   CT state legislation allows for the predation culling of deer by municipalities through a DEP permit.  DEP has only recently come out with guidance on this procedure (2004).  Greenwich, CT was the first municipality to apply for this permit.  Audubon is allowing bow hunting on its lands and has not taken advantage of the predation cull at this time.  They are closely following the management course that the Town is taking.

6)    Q.  What are other towns doing?

Many of the towns in Fairfield County have joined a regional workgroup that is known as the Fairfield County Deer Management Alliance. The purpose for this group is to share information, educate the public, set goals and coordinate resources.  The Towns of Wilton, New Canaan, Greenwich, Ridgefield and Brookfield are the leaders on the municipal front.  Both Wilton and New Canaan are using public dollars to actively promote bow hunting on private properties.  Wilton has also helped to coordinate a controlled hunt in one of its water taxing districts and has provide funding to assist with the processing of meat for the local soup kitchens.