Westport

Colin Kelly, Compliance officer
Westport Conservation
ckelly@westportct.gov
203-341-1170


June 2010: A petition to reduce deer populations in Westport was presented to the RTM and First Selectman:
Over 230 signatures, with 100 more on the website were collected, and residents submitted their petition to the RTM and First Selectman. The petition reads:

“We the undersigned electors of the Town of Westport request the RTM and First Selectman to create and implement a plan for the control of the Town’s deer herd, the current size of which threatens our health, safety, environment and quality of life.”

The petition will go before the RTM on July 6. If you agree that it’s time for action, please call your representatives and register your support before the meeting. You can find your representatives at www.westportct.gov/government/boards/rtm_members.htm

Let us briefly review some of the issues at stake.

1. Many, perhaps most, of us know someone who has suffered from the debilitating effects of Lyme disease. It was unheard of in Westport in the 1970’s. Now it is a real threat to us, to our children and to our grand children . And we know that this potentially devastating disease is spread by ticks whose abundance and distribution are correlated with deer densities. The scientific community has testified to this on numerous occasions.

An aerial survey conducted in January 2009, estimated deer density for Fairfield County at 61.8 deer per square mile. If the number can be reduced to 10-12 per square mile, Lyme disease will either disappear or become a rarity. (And just to repeat the tired old argument – no, the deer do not contract the disease; it is mice and other small rodents that are contaminated with the spirochete bacterium. But the deer pick up and distribute the infected ticks over our lawns, parks and open spaces which is how we in turn pick them up. And the deer provide the perfect host for the ticks’ reproductive cycle.)

2. Many, perhaps most, of us have collided with or had a near miss in our vehicles with a deer - expensive, alarming and potentially deadly encounters for both parties.

3. Many of us, no, all of us except those who have invested in fences, have had our backyards ravaged by the depredation caused by the deer’s need for sustenance. And fencing is only a solution for a few. It forces the deer into a neighbor’s yard and goes against the American suburban ideal of easy access between one’s property and one’s neighbor’s.

4. What about the cost in dollars and cents? The Fairfield County Deer Management Alliance, of which Westport is a member, commissioned a study on the economic impact of deer on our towns. The study was conducted by two PhD’s from the Department of Health Policy and Management of New York Medical College and has been published this month. The estimated annual cost to Westport is: $ 8,934,162. This is conservative. It excludes a whole host of costs that are too numerous to list, but go to the Alliance’s website (www.deeralliance.com) for full details. It’s quite a bill for a town of 25,000.

We seek a safe, humane and effective program to begin to confront the problem. Assistance and advice is available from our State DEP officers and leaders in our sister towns that have already implemented deer management plans. These people are ready, willing and able to help us.

This is not a new issue for Westport. The “no hunting” ordinance, unique to our Town in Connecticut, has been debated over and over. But the problem does not go away. If countries in southern Africa can manage their burgeoning elephant populations, surely we can confront our own animal menace here.

It is anticipated that, after the initial meeting, the issue will go before the Town’s various committees such as public health, environment and public protection. If you would like to attend or, better yet, give evidence at one or more of the hearings, please contact the writer at Pknight191@aol.com.

ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF DEER

In 2010 researchers at the Department of Health Policy and Management, School of Health Sciences and Practice, New York Medical College compltede an economic study of all Fairfield County towns looking at the economic impact of deer overpopulation. It was estimated that Westport spends over $8.9 million every year on the problems caused by deer. Each single family residence is estimated to be spending over $1000 a year on expenses such as tick and deer repellent sprays, landscape deer exclusion fencing, shrub and other plant losses, auto accidents with deer and illnesses caused by ticks.

WHAT MORE COULD BE DONE?

The Alliance strongly encourages towns suffering from the effects of deer overpoulation to enlist the free help and advice of the CT DEP on how to effectively reduce nuisance deer numbers and economic losses. DEP simply require an official letter from the town asking for their advice. The Towns of Redding and Brookfield are currently working with the DEP to come up with affordable, safe and humane solutions to deer overpopulation in their residential areas in order to reduce their deer-vehicle accident rates, high number of tick borne illnesses and environmental destruction by excess deer. Any proposal by the DEP is obviously subject to approval by the town. If the cost of the solution is less than the cost (both in economic terms and in quality of life terms) of the ongoing problem, then surely it is worth considering?



December 1 2008: A new town representative for Westport was appointed by the First Selectman:
Colin Kelly
Compliance officer
Westport Conservation
ckelly@westportct.gov
203-341-1170

In June 1971, The Town of Westport approved an ordinance that prohibited hunting and trapping throughout the entire town. Therefore, the management efforts of deer within the Town of Westport differ somewhat from the surrounding towns.

Contacts have been made to initiate a study of the deer population and the effect shown on vegetation through several locations in town. This will be done in conjunction with the Parks & Recreation Department, Conservation Department, a local nature preserve and a local land trust. Additionally, Public education and outreach through the Conservation Department will be augmented with the explanation of different management techniques of planting deer resistant landscaping, deer fencing and use of repellents.

September 2008: The Westport-Weston Health District updated their Position Statement on Deer Management and Lyme Disease and acknowledge the role of reducing deer population densities to around 10 to 12 deer per sq mile in reducing tick populations and Lyme disease.

March 2006: The Westport local press featured deer management and the problems of the deer population explosion in both an editorial and a front page article. http://www.deeralliance.com/index.php?pageID=29#article82 The Alliance representative is working with the First Selectman and with the Health Department to try and solve the problems brought on by too many deer. The Westport-Weston Health District is one of three study sites that looked into the effectiveness of personal measures against the three main tick borne diseases (Lyme, Ehrlichiosis and Babesiosis). The Alliance would encourage the town to look into population level interventions that would benefit the entire community and their visitors, including future generations.