Westport

Westport’s Deer Management Committee = http://www.westportct.gov/index.aspx?page=703

Final Report = http://www.westportct.gov/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=5789

 

In addition, I copied the summary of the report below, which should replace/add to the “What is your Town Doing?” section of the webpage.

 

Summary

 

1. Westport Deer Count:  No one has been certain of the deer population in Westport or

whether it is growing or shrinking. Opinions on this topic are strong, but are mostly based

on anecdotal evidence.  Although the state of Connecticut performs periodic aerial surveys,

they do not sample in Westport. The Committee identified a relatively inexpensive service

company that offers aerial infrared radar mapping of deer. This set a baseline for our

current deer population and mapped its distribution.

 

2. Aerial Survey:  At the recommendation of the Committee, the Town of Westport funded a

Forward Looking Infrared Survey (FLIR) conducted by Vision Air Research on March 10,

2013. This count utilized a unique, relatively cost effective technique. FLIR counts each

individual deer in an area rather than random transects which are then extrapolated to the

entire area of interest. This provides not only the total number of deer, but also an

indication of their distribution. The survey estimates the Westport deer population at 589

deer. With sampling error, the deer population is estimated at 26 30 deer per square mile.

Aerial flyover manual counts performed in Westport in 2000 and 2004 estimated the

population between 30 and 60 deer per square mile using transects north of the Merritt

Parkway. This indicates that the deer population in Westport is stable or declining, similar

to Fairfield County as a whole.

 

3. Opinions on Deer Control:  Regarding deer population control, Committee  members

initially fell into two camps, with some suggesting lethal methods such as sharpshooters

and hunting and others opposed. The committee explored hunting and sharpshooting

programs used by other communities, including those currently in place in surrounding

towns. As we learned more about the limitations of culling through hunting and

sharpshooting programs and the cost effectiveness of the Porcine Zona Pellucida  PZP)

contraceptive program, support moved to the non lethal, contraceptive approach.

 

4. Recommendations:  The Committee recommends the creation of a committee or

committees to assist and oversee the implementation of recommendations regarding:

a) Deer population control (PZP contraception program)

b) Education programs to mitigate the effects of deer

c) Education programs to assist residents in protecting themselves from tick borne

diseases

d) FLIR deer counts every other year to monitor changes in Westport’s deer population

The Committee ould also keep apprised of new techniques and research regarding deer

population control.

        

5. Immunocontraception:  The Committee recommends the Town of Westport facilitate and

promote a PZP deer contraception program.Newer contraceptive techniques have recently

made deer contraception both effective and affordable. The Committee has contacted Dr.

Alan Rutberg of Tufts University who has successfully implemented similar programs in

other areas and has expressed interest in implementing a similar program in Westport.

The goal of the program would be to decrease deer numbers in areas of town where

residents feel the deer are a nuisance rather than a town wide project aimed at reducing

the entire Westport deer herd. The program envisioned by the Committee ould e ery

economical and would be implemented voluntarily in neighborhoods where residents 5

support this program and are willing to fund it for their neighborhood. Funding could be

supplemented by the town and animal advocacy  roups as has been done in other

communities.

 

6. Lyme Disease and Deer:  The Committee presumed that residents were interested in deer

control, in part, because of their concerns of Lyme and other tick borne disease. The

Committee thoroughly reviewed the myriad available research studying the link between

deer populations and tick borne disease. Unfortunately, there is no clear cut ink. Evidence

suggests that even a dramatic reduction in the deer population has limited impact on Lyme

Disease;  owever,  xperts disagree on exactly how low a deer density is required for

impact.  Despite the ambiguous relationship, the Committee felt, based on comments by

the RTM, that Lyme and other tick borne disease should be part of its purview. The

following aspects of Lyme and other tick borne disease were investigated by the

Committee:  the life cycles of Borrelia          burgdorferi (the causative agent of Lyme Disease);

the various tick borne diseases and the blacklegged tick (Ixodes         scapularis); the history of

reporting by physicians and the number of cases in Westport and other areas; the various

methods for personal protection against Lyme Disease; and methods for reducing tick

populations on town and resident owned properties.

 

7. Lyme Disease  prevention:  It is difficult to find hard numbers on the incidence of Lyme

Disease, but it is one of the most common reportable diseases in Connecticut.  Recent

reports indicate that seniors are now the most affected age group in Connecticut.  The best

methods for reducing the incidence of Lyme Disease at this time are improved education

throughout the community.  The Committee has proposed methods of educating the public

regarding these topics in an effort to further reduce the incidence of Lyme Disease  n

Westport.

 

8. Deer and Landscaping:  The Committee explored various methods of mitigating the impact

of deer on private landscaping. Effective methods of reducing deer browsing exist including

planting of “deer resistant plants” and use of deer repellant sprays. The Committee has

proposed methods for educating the public with this information and recommends that

homeowners utilize this information to protect their personal property. The committee

found only anecdotal evidence that reducing deer populations reduces browsing in

suburban landscapes; however, individual neighborhoods could elect to implement the

proposed PZP immunocontraception program for this purpose.

9. Deer Vehicle Accidents (DVAs):  The Committee found a relatively low frequency of

reported DVAs in Westport. Even an aggressive deer population reduction program would

have a minimal effect on Westport’s overall automobile accident rate. The committee

concluded that any programs aimed at reducing DVA’s should target education.

 

10. Deer, forests, biodiversity and Lyme Disease:  Since the middle of the last century,

researchers have documented the negative impact of overabundant deer on forest plants

and trees.  More recent studies have reexamined the matter and concluded that “too

many” and even “too few” deer numbers vary by the specific geographical region.

Furthermore, Westport is largely non forested with some areas of small sized wetlands

forest patches. The Committee concluded that to their knowledge, there are no studies

done in Westport that have shown what is the “just right” number of deer for maintaining

a “healthy” fragmented forest. For these reasons, the Committee is unable to make any

recommendation regarding this issue.