2006: Homeowners can help limit the deer population

Kent Haydock, Pat Sesto and Georgina Scholl

Homeowners can help limit deer population
by Kent Haydock
Pat Sesto 
Georgina Scholl
Reprinted from the Redding Pilot September 14 2006
Private property owners are making a huge contribution to public health and safety by participating in annual culls of overabundant deer in Redding. Allowing bowhunters to manage deer numbers also reduces the over-foraging of local woodlands and gardens. As the new hunting season begins on Sept. 15, Redding town officials are actively promoting a significant reduction in the local herd. The Conservation Commission has allowed 1,000 acres of town land to be used for deer reduction hunts under the control of the deer warden, David Sanford, and his recently appointed assistant, Tom Preston.
There are three main areas of concern when deer numbers are excessive: Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, deer-vehicle accidents, and woodland damage severe enough to cause loss of other species such as birds and wildflowers.
It is well recognized that Lyme is a direct consequence of the overabundance of deer. But it seems less well known that reducing deer numbers in Connecticut could prevent Lyme disease here. The Connecticut Department of Public Health and Dr. Kirby Stafford in their joint 2004 publication (Tick Management Handbook) quote studies that show that reducing the deer population to eight per square mile is sufficient to prevent most, if not all, ticks from reproducing and will dramatically reduce Lyme disease.
A healthy number of deer that can be supported by Redding’s woodlands would be around 10 to 12 per square mile, or a total of 320 in all of Redding. To prevent Lyme, deer numbers should be between 240 and 300. At present, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection estimates that we have around 1,800 deer in Redding. According to the DEP Wildlife Division’s deer biologist, Howard Kilpatrick, as long as the deer are finding enough food to survive on and continue to have twin fawns, this number will continue to increase. Last year’s acorn crop was particularly abundant, providing a good supply of food over the winter.
Any property owner may now engage a licensed bowhunter to hunt on his or her property through Jan. 31, 2007. Those who recognize that control of deer is important to the well-being of their families and community have the opportunity to engage volunteer bowhunters on their properties, at agreed times and sites.
Normally, hunters prefer properties of an acre or more with wooded cover for their elevated tree stands. Upon signed agreement with the owners, the hunter sets up his portable stand in a secluded tree, often rising early to be in position before dawn, as state law permits hunting only between dawn and dusk and never on Sundays.
It is widely recommended that landowners taking on a hunter inform their neighbors beforehand and even seek their participation. Grouping properties together helps the hunter to be more effective. 
Many area residents have indicated that they would prefer the towns to solve the deer problem. In Weston, Greenwich, Wilton, and Darien, herds have been thinned on large parcels by controlled or managed hunts. This year, Redding and Ridgefield will join the effort to reduce deer densities. However, these larger scale endeavors cannot solve the problem alone. Patricia Sesto, executive director of the Fairfield County Deer Management Alliance, said, “These town-organized efforts are important, yes. But equally important are the smaller lots opened to hunting by homeowners. Without participation by private property owners, we cannot make a real difference.”
This season venison from Redding’s hunts will be donated to local food pantries with the financial support of Redding residents to defray the costs of processing the meat. To make a donation, contact Gail Schiron, director of human services, at 938-9725.
The town clerk’s office has copies of the 2006 Connecticut Hunting Guide, which explains about licenses and permits. The Redding deer wardens will match a highly trained and experienced hunter to your property and to your specific requirements (such as hunting only during the workweek, or only before 8 a.m.). To contact the deer wardens, call Tom Preston at 733-0070.

This information is provided by the 16-town Fairfield County  Deer Management Alliance, of which Bethel, Danbury, Ridgefield, Redding, and Easton are member towns. Fairfield and Bridgeport are the latest towns to join the group. For further information and to find out what each town is doing, go to the alliance Web site at www.deeralliance.com. Hunting laws and recent articles on homeowner participation are on the “Hunting” Web page.