Questions posed by legislators:
i). Q. Can Connecticut Towns legally hunt their deer? And if so why can't they keep their deer numbers low enough now to prevent Lyme ticks from breeding and spreading Lyme disease?
Answer: Yes licensed hunters can legally hunt (except in Westport) during the legal hunting season on private land, and also on some town land and state land, but in many towns over 70% of land is now developed into private residential land whose owners themselves do not hunt and see no reason to allow recreational hunters into their back yards. There is no minimum acreage for bow hunting. Bowhunters on small properties use elevated tree stands to make hunting completely safe in tight spaces. But unless the public know why they need to allow more hunting (for the purpose of a rapid reduction of the deer population back to balanced levels), they are very unlikely to volunteer their private land to "sport" hunters. It is partly this lack of understanding that prevents hunters from keeping deer numbers down to appropriate and healthy levels. Another factor is the restricted deer hunting season in Connecticut and the limitation to hunting in daylight hours when deer are mainly nocturnal in winter. This problem of access to land gets worse every year with dwindling numbers of hunters and more subdivision of land. Hunting deer with a rifle requires 10 acres of land and there aren't many parcels left of that size. If education doesn't arrive soon the solution to deer overpopulation will be very expensive and difficult. Some New Jersey Townships are already having to resort to paid sharpshooters or to trapping and euthanizing the deer. Another problem is that some elected town leaders are reluctant to take on "the deer issue" and reluctant even to try to establish a deer committee to look into the science of deer overpopulation in the current climate of contention and confusion.
Nevertheless, attempts to reduce deer numbers have increased over the last three years. Even in the more-developed towns where hunting is limited largely to archery on small parcels of land, deer population control is being stepped up- in communities such as Greenwich, New Canaan, Darien, Brookfield, Ridgefield, Redding and Wilton. However these efforts are hampered by the lack of a clear message from the state on ideal healthy deer numbers and why its importnat to keep deer numbers below the threshold for the breeding of ticks.
ii) Q. Why doesn't the media help educate the public on the deer reduction successes?
Answer: The media does not see itself as part of the solution. They want to sell newspapers and this is helped by portraying a controversy, not by resolving the controversy with accurate factual information. Education and promotion of public and environmental health is the duty of the legislature and the state agencies.
iii) Q. How can the legislature move forwards on the issue until the disagreements over the facts of deer reduction are resolved?
Answer: The facts will never be accepted by those that dislike their implications. It is important to understand the difference between a manufactured controversy in the media and confusion among the public and any disagreement amongst the tick and deer experts. The state tick experts and the state deer managers all agree that deer populations are excessive and are causing destruction of the woodlands and the epidemics of tick borne diseases we are experiencing. The state residents need to see those facts in order to hold informed debate on the solution to the Lyme crisis. The Alliance recommends that the expert scientists from the three relevant state agencies (DPH, CAES and DEP) review the science together and come up with a joint policy statement for the benefit of the public and the communities that want to solve their deer problem.
1) Q: "Is there really a deer problem?"
A: The definition of a "problem" is somewhat subjective. However the majority of residents and the scientific community agree that the following three major consequences of excess deer numbers constitute a problem that merits action:
a) Damage to the woodlands with loss of plant and animal species, in particular loss of native wildflowers, shrubs and tree saplings and loss of ground and shrub nesting birds. This level of damage indicates deer numbers greater than 10 to 20 per square mile.
b) Lyme disease in the community. The presence of Lyme disease and deer ticks indicates significant numbers of deer. The deer ticks cannot spread Lyme to humans without at least 8 to 10 deer per square mile. This has been found to be a consistent number in studies across New England. The extent of each town's deer problem can be assessed by looking at the number of Lyme cases that that town suffers each year. Look at the bar chart that shows the rate of Lyme disease per 100,000 people for each town in Connecticut, taken from the DPH web site tables of Lyme disease by town: http://www.deeralliance.com/admin/index.php?mod=core&file=custom_pages&area=edit_page&pageID=5
c) Deer-vehicle accidents- The regular occurrence of accidents due to deer is an indication of large numbers of deer in the land along roadways. Typical Fairfield County towns are now experiencing over 100 deer-vehicle accidents a year (eg Ridgefield 198 in 2004, Newtown 118 and Monroe 144 in 2004/5). Many more deer-vehicle accidents occur than are reported as the deer often survives to run off into the woods and some towns only report road killed deer, not deer related accidents.
2) Q: "How important are accurate deer counts?"
A: While deer counts are useful they are notoriously inaccurate and difficult to perform. Aerial deer surveys are performed from helicopters or low flying planes and can only be done when there is at least 4 inches of snow cover and no wind. These surveys typically cost over $500 an hour and take many hours of flying time (25 plus) to cover a county-wide area. According to CT DEP, typically only 50% of deer are seen on a given flyover so the correction factor is two. Connecticut DEP recently completed a new and highly detailed aerial survey of deer in Fairfield County in January 2009. The results showed an average of 61 deer per sq mile. Details can be seen on the "Deer Facts" page of this web site. Their previously published deer density numbers for Connecticut, in the May/June issue of "Connecticut Wildlife", were obtained over the winters of 2006/7, but the table shows raw, uncorrected data. See http://ct.gov/dep/lib/dep/wildlife/pdf_files/outreach/connecticut_wildli... For example, the number given in the table for Fairfield County is 29.4 deer per square mile, which translates to 59 deer per sq mile.
Fortunately there are many easier and less expensive ways of assessing how many deer are living in a given area- indirect methods of assessing the impact of deer numbers that give us an indication of what those deer numbers are. Do we have to count the individual cars to prove we have gridlock in Manhattan at 5pm? Or, to use Lyme Disease as an analogy: Do physicians have to count individual Lyme bacteria in your body to make a diagnosis of Lyme Disease? Of course not- they use indirect evidence such as the fact that you have a fever, a bull’s eye rash, symptoms and perhaps a complication of Lyme such as arthritis, and they may confirm the diagnosis with an antibody test. These are all consequences of the bacterial infection. They can also follow your progress on treatment by following these signs of infection. They don't need to count Lyme bacteria to know you are getting better.
Similarly, there are many indirect measures of deer numbers that establish that the deer population is excessive. These can also be compared on a town by town basis annually and used to monitor the deer population: high rates of Lyme disease in the community; tick counts performed regularly to look for trends; annual deer-vehicle accident statistics from local police departments; roadkill statistics reported to the DEP, evidence of woodland damage with lack of understory, young saplings or wildflowers in areas that would normally allow these to thrive; a preponderance of invasive species not eaten by deer such as Japanese Barberry and garlic mustard with perhaps a few wildflowers surviving in their shelter. The maple leaf viburnum was an early victim of deer overbrowsing and is no longer seen in the wild in southern Connecticut. Many species of songbirds are now endangered in Connecticut because of destruction of their nesting habitat by deer. These measures can also be used as end points or recovery goals for a community that undertakes a deer reduction program. More information on senstive indicator species is available from the Connecticut Audubon Society and from the New Jersey Conservation Foundation's Dr. Emile DeVito.
Deer counts can be a useful measure of progress or lack of progress, when you think you are nearing your goal, but a single count is not that useful.
3) Q: "How does Deer Reduction differ from Sport Hunting?"
A: The state of Connecticut uses the term “recreational hunting” without differentiating why a landowner might allow hunting on their property. The Alliance is promoting hunting to effect a reduction in the deer density in order to alleviate the impacts on public health and safety and our natural resources. The hunters that participate with in the town programs are “sport hunters” who are bound by the recreational hunting laws and accordingly are not paid for their services. This differs from the effort taken in Greenwich in 2005 when that community paid professional sharp shooters to harvest deer from an open space within a densely developed neighborhood. This program of sharp shooting does not operate under the recreational hunting laws and is instead controlled by a different protocol (Public Act 03-under the jurisdiction of the CT Department of Environmental Protection who must scrutinize a work plan and issue a permit prior to the commencement of the sharp shooting.
4) Q: What is the “rebound effect”?
A: The “rebound effect” only applies to starving deer that are no longer able to reproduce effectively. It is the reproductive response of a population that sustained a notable decline in numbers due to stresses such as resource shortage, disease, or a catastrophe. In the case of deer, when a herd is stressed from too few resources to sustain the population’s density, females will fail to reproduce or will have fewer than the normal two offspring. When the stress is reduced, i.e. more food becomes available or the population takes a sharp decline, females will tend to produce more offspring again, returning towards the normal of twin fawns as their health recovers. This response is a mechanism for populations to recover following an accelerated decline. At this point in our region’s deer population, the herd is not considered stressed and the reproductive rates are normal (usually twins) so the rebound effect does not occur if deer numbers are reduced by hunting. In fact in Connecticut, lower numbers of deer will be much easier to maintain at stable levels than is the current very high deer population that has proved extremely difficult to maintain.
5) Q: "Why do tick counts appear to go up (in scientific papers) temporarily after deer reduction?"
A: The deer tick has a two year life cycle. When deer numbers go down the maturing adult ticks that are seeking or “questing” a host deer to feed on will be left in the fields and woodland edges without a host. The numbers of adult ticks that are counted in the two years immediately following a cull will therefore appear to go up. They are in fact the same ticks that would normally have found a deer host (for a last blood meal before laying its 2000 to 3000 eggs), but instead are still on the ground to be counted. In the third year and in all subsequent years after a deer cull, the numbers of adult and of all stages of ticks falls dramatically. Reducing Lyme disease incidence (and Babesiosis and Ehrlichiosis) should be thought of as a long term goal with results seen as soon as the third year after a significant deer reduction.
6) Q: "What evidence is there that deer reduction reduces Lyme disease?"
A: It is well known that without deer there would be no Lyme disease in New England. (Islands with no deer but with all the other animals that can play a role in Lyme disease, have no deer ticks and no Lyme disease.) The question is how many deer can there be without re-starting the deer/deer-tick/Lyme disease cycle again. Over the last 20 years studies have been performed in Maine, Massachussetts and Connecticut to demonstrate what this deer density is. The results are all remarkably similar- around 8 to 10 to 12 deer per square mile.
The local Connecticut examples were performed in Bridgeport and in Mumford Cove jointly by the DEP and Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. The results are graphed and explained in the newly printed DEP brochure "Managing Urban Deer in Connecticut" 2nd Edition available from DEP and online at:
and on the Tick and Lyme Disease page of this web site: http://www.deeralliance.com/index.php?pageID=32#article57. Reducing deer densities from 101 to 10.5 deer per square mile and maintaining them at that level resulted in a sharp decline in tick numbers after two years and a drop in Lyme cases from 30 new cases a year to between 2 and 3 new cases a year only 5 years after deer reduction began.
7) Q: Why can’t we just use Maxforce bait boxes to kill ticks on mice?
A: The Max Force mouse bait boxes have been discontinued by the manufacturer. Some are still available for sale. However, even when available, they only protect areas around homes that can afford the system. The White footed mouse is just one of several small animal hosts that infect the larval stage of the deer tick with the Lyme bacteria. Other animals that perform the same role are shrews, chipmunks, voles and many small birds. The boxes were intended to kill ticks on mice that went inside the box. The shrews and birds cannot be treated by the bait boxes (neither will enter the boxes) and therefore many ticks will still become infected even if all the mice in CT were treated. The bait boxes are only placed around homes (by a licensed professional service twice a year) and are not used over great areas such as state parks or wilder areas, so any benefit is very local. Treating ticks on mice does not, of course, stop deer from destroying the woodlands or causing traffic accidents. This is a very focussed approach that does not address the underlying problem of there being too many deer supporting and nurturing a huge tick population.
8) Q: Why can’t we just use 4-poster devices to kill ticks on deer?
A: These devices are not legal in the states of Connecticut or New York. According to the State “Tick Management Handbook”, these devices can only be used “as far away as possible from places where children play” because of the harmful chemicals. They "are to be managed under state use regulations, combined with some form of a deer management program." They need to be re-filled regularly with corn and use huge quantities. Another problem is that they attract and are frequently damaged or destroyed by black bear and can attract rabid vermin. They have become illegal in New York State because of the risk of spreading Chronic Wasting Disease (the deer and elk version of Mad Cow) to the deer. Deer treated by 4-poster devices still destroy woodlands and cause deer vehicle accidents and continue to breed. This is a very focused approach to ticks only that does not address the underlying problem of there being too many deer which will continue to supply an unending source of ticks as the deer support and nurture a huge tick population.
9) Q: "Is there birth control for deer?"
A: Despite widespread belief, contraception is not feasible in wild deer. An injectable immuno-vaccine, GonaCon, is undergoing trials on isolated, contained deer herds under the control and supervision of the DEP and FDA. GonaCon has not been tested with large, free-roaming populations of white-tailed deer. Modeling studies have been done that investigate the long-term population effects of contraceptives to prairie dogs, but not deer (See http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/nwrc/publications/08pubs/yoder081.pdf).
GonaCon was officially registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on September 29, 2009 for use with female white-tailed deer. Its EPA reg. number is 56228-40. GonaCon is registered as a restricted-use pesticide, and all users must be Certified Pesticide Applicators. Only USDA Wildlife Services or State wildlife management agency personnel or individuals working under their authority may use it. In order for GonaCon to be used in any given State, it must also be registered with the State and approved for use by the State fish and game/natural resource agency. More information can be found by contacting USDA Wildlife Services' Connecticut State Director Monte Chandler at 413-253-2403 for more information.
GonaCon is available for purchase from NWRC starting January 2010; however, use might be delayed pending registration and approval in specific states.
EPA approve drugs on the basis of their environmental safety and non target issues, not on their effectiveness as a population control drug. So EPA approval and registration should not be interpreted as an endorsement of its use to control deer herds. Its best effect is measured on a group of treated deer in a fenced or partially fenced area- and not on the reproductive capability of a wild herd, some of which will not have been treated at all.
Birth control in feed or salt licks does not exist and is not possible because it could be consumed by any animal in the wild and enter the food chain. The development of a species specific drug or application system that would allow only deer to access it would be a useful step towards applicability to wild deer. Because the contraceptive drugs currently being studied would be injected into an animal that could be consumed by humans or other wildlife, that drug has to be safe for ingestion, hence the involvement of the FDA. The only uses of contraception that one may have read/heard about are associated with trial studies under strict control. If deer numbers could be first reduced to the ideal balanced sustainable number this might one day become a viable maintenance tool. Remember that a sterile deer does as much woodland damage as a fertile one and their life span is 12 plus years. If the day comes when 100% effective contraception does become available, it would not alleviate our current density problems for many years, it would only help keep the existing problem from getting worse. Additionally, in order to keep the existing herd from growing, some 90% of the does would have to be treated. This is an obvious logistical challenge that at this time seems insurmountable.
10) Q: "What evidence is there of woodland damage by deer?"
A: Impacts to our ecology from excessive deer density, is the least known problem in the community. Each deer consumes approximately 10 pounds of vegetation each day. This rate of consumption coupled with very high densities leads to a loss in biodiversity of both plants and other animals that depend on those plants and threatens the stability of our natural areas.
Deer have overbrowsed the lower layer in our woodlands, leaving an open, park-like setting of mature trees with little or nothing below them. In a healthy forest there are three layers: a non-woody vegetation or groundcover, with wildflowers and bulbs; the understory comprised of shrubs and saplings; and the canopy, which is comprised of mature trees. Clearly, our forests are no longer healthy given the absence of the understory and groundcover.
We cannot blame this lack of understory on the “maturing forest” and “natural succession” as some would have us believe. According to forestry experts at Yale and at CAES, these Fairfield County woods are not mature woodlands, they are intermediate in their development and would require at least another 50 years of growth to reach the stage of maturity that might cause loss of diversity due to dense shading of the forest floor. The selective loss of plants below 6 feet (the reach of a deer) and of native plants but not of the inedible Japanese Barberry is further evidence that the loss is due to deer damage.
11) Q:What is wrong with letting the deer eat the woodlands until they reach their maximum numbers, stop breeding and die of starvation?
A: The deer damage to the understory affects the forest in three ways. First, the understory is partially comprised of young trees. These are the trees which will eventually replace the senior members of the woodland. If we were to sustain a major hurricane, for example, many of the mature trees would be toppled. In balanced woodlands, there are young members poised to seize the opportunity to eventually close the canopy. Secondly, the selective nature of deer browsing is reducing the species diversity of the woodlands. For example, deer browse has significantly diminished the population of young oaks through the consumption of acorns and seedlings. We are at risk of losing the oak species and others from our woodlands. Lastly, the understory supports several bird species by providing nesting and food resources. When the understory is gone so are the bird species. It is estimated that 5-7 songbird species no longer are found in our area due to deer browse impacts.
Aside from the devastating impacts to the forest plants and the other wildlife that depends on those plants, the consequences to a deer population that is stressed because it is too dense are unpleasant to say the least. The population with too little food and space doesn’t simply stop producing young until its numbers drop. The stress of overcrowding makes the herd vulnerable to starvation and disease as well as a lowered reproductive capacity. “Nature’s” way of keeping a population in check comes from other forces, such as diseases that take advantage of an overcrowded herd’s weaknesses. Stressed animals are more susceptible to contracting illnesses and the close proximity of each animal provides ample opportunities to spread the illness. One such disease is Chronic Wasting Disease, the deer and elk version of “Mad Cow”. We do not want our Connecticut deer to become infected with this unpleasant and untreatable disease.
12) Q: What is meant by “Carrying Capacity?"
A: Increasing concern about deer-related problems indicates that deer populations in some areas of Connecticut, notably Fairfield County, have exceeded an optimum density called the carrying capacity. Carrying capacity can be determined by three different standards, each representing a different stage or level of deer population:
A) Cultural carrying capacity is reached when the deer population is high enough to cause widespread conflict with the nearby human population. The deer are thriving and typically have twin fawns. If nothing is done to stabilize or reduce the deer population, conflicts increase with both citizens and deer suffering as a result.
B) Ecological carrying capacity is that deer density at which we see damage to the forest ecosystem, impacting the populations of plants and other wildlife species, forest regeneration and water quality. The deer remain healthy and typically have twin fawns. To prevent irreversible losses of woodland plant and small animal species, deer populations must be reduced at this stage.
C) Biological carrying capacity is the population density that cannot be supported by the available habitat. The forest is devastated and little food remains. Catastrophic mortality, from such causes as starvation, stress, diseases and parasites, and reproductive failure, produce a dramatic decline in the population and poor health in the surviving individuals.
In Fairfield County, the cultural and ecological carrying capacities have apparently been exceeded, but we have not yet arrived at the biological carrying capacity on a widespread basis. This means that the deer remain healthy but the forest does not. The woodlands are unable to recover each year from the degree of overbrowsing by deer and gradually decline while the deer population continues to grow. We have not yet reached the stage when hunting deer would cause a rebound recovery of the deer population, as the deer are not yet stressed to that extent and their reproduction remains high. At the current levels of deer and of woodland damage, a deer culling program would reduce the deer population (assuming enough deer were removed annually to keep ahead of their reproduction rate) and allow woodland recovery before it is too late for the ecological integrity of our natural spaces.
13) Q."What about white-footed mice?- Won't Mouse Bait Boxes solve all our problems?"
A: The white-footed mouse is just one of several small animal hosts that infect the larval and nymph stages of the deer tick with the Lyme bacteria. Other animals that perform the same role are shrews, chipmunks, voles and many small birds. This is one reason why the use of Mouse Bait boxes to kill ticks on mice will never be completely successful. Shrews do not take the bait and the birds cannot be treated by the bait boxes and therefore many ticks will still become infected even if all the mice in CT were treated. Another limitation of the mouse bait boxes is that they are only placed around homes (by a licensed pesticide applicator) and do not treat mice out in the woods, so Lyme can still be picked up away from home. Treating mice does not stop deer from destroying the woodlands or causing traffic accidents.
14) Q: "Will deer reduction help stop Ehrlichiosis and Babesiosis?"
A: Yes, deer are the essential large mammal host to the one tick that carries all three diseases. Reducing deer to densities of 8 per square mile or fewer (10.5 in one Connecticut study) has been shown to dramatically reduce the population of the tick that spreads Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis and Babesiosis to the human population.
15) Q: What is the minimum acreage for safe hunting?
A: There is no minimum acreage established by the State for bow hunting and there is a 10 acre minimum for rifles. Firearms also may not be discharged within 500 feet of habitable buildings. However, simply because your property meets the minimum acreage does not mean it is appropriate for hunting. All landowners are encouraged to have an experienced hunter(s) evaluate their property taking into consideration the lot configuration, topography and proximity of neighboring homes. The best approach in our suburban neighborhoods is to get several abutting neighbors together to create a larger area for hunting. Hunting for deer reduction is often carried out from elevated tree stands which makes it possible to hunt safely in a smaller area.
Regardless, we encourage landowners to communicate their intentions with neighboring property owners and to accommodate their desires as practical. Property boundaries should be marked or at least walked with the hunter so trespassing is not an issue.
16) Q: How safe is hunting as a deer reduction method? What is the safety record for Connecticut?
The following answer is provided by the State's Hunter Safety Program Administrator and Wildlife Biologist, Mark Clavette
A: Hunting is among the safest of all outdoor activites and has one of the lowest accident rates for all forms of outdoor recreation. Hunting accidents are rare and most injuries while hunting are self-inflicted or involve members of the same hunting party. The safety record of hunters has improved substantially over the years due in large part to mandatory hunter education which has produced an extremely safety-conscious generation of hunters. The latest data from the International Hunter Education Association indicate a national rate of 6 hunting related firearms accidents per 100,000 hunters.
Connecticut enjoys one of the best safety records among the states. In a 24 year period, Connecticut has had an average of 4 accidents (all reported injuries while hunting) per year. The last several years there were one or two accidents reported. This is among some 60,000 firearms hunters and 13,000 archery hunters, who spend a conservative estimate of 789,000+ days afield each year during the various seasons.
Since 1982 when collection of hunting related injury information in Connecticut became standardized, there have been 9 fatalities and 91 non fatal accidents recorded through 2005. Among the fatalities that occured while hunting, 1 was self-inflicted, 1 was a fall from a tree stand, 2 were from natural causes (heart attack), and 2 were among those illegally hunting. The largest % of non-fatal accidents in Connecticut involve relatively minor injuries among upland bird hunters (pheasant, grouse, woodcock) using shotguns, at distances to victim of 50 yards or less, where the victim is in the line of fire (while swinging on game, when the victim was out of sight of the shooter).
17) Q: How do I find a trained, licensed hunter for my property?
A: Hunters can be found through word of mouth or at various websites. The town of Darien maintains a list of hunters and the Towns of New Canaan and Redding have been actively working with landowners to pair them with hunters. Wilton has a list of hunters who have worked with the town as well as a list of hunters who have expressed an interest in hunting locally. Each Alliance member can direct you to the right person or department for your town.
Regardless of how you come by a hunter you should always ask for his licensing information and references, which need to be checked out. You are encouraged to get to know the basic laws so that when you are speaking with the hunter you have the opportunity to get a sense if that person is knowledgeable about the laws he must work within. The Alliance’s website also offers a suggested hunter interview guide to help you work through points that should be covered http://www.deeralliance.com/index.php?pageID=10#article79.
18) Q: I have children and dogs and would still like to reduce the number of deer that travel through my yard. Is this possible without fencing?
A: There are new products emerging in the marketplace to add to the existing products that discourage deer from a property. Older deterrents use lights and sprinklers to scare deer off. The down side is that the deer learn where the boundaries are that trigger these devises, so the protection is limited. New products use sounds at a frequency humans can barely detect (many children can) but deer can. These have the potential to cover a broader area of property, potentially allowing homeowners to protect more extensive areas of gardens and landscaping. Deer rapidly adapt to these devices too if there is no unpleasant consequence apart from the noise.
Remember that the deer are just being scared off to damage the neighboring land. It is often possible to find a skilled hunter who can work from an elevated tree stand on your property and only be in your yard when the children and dogs are not outside, such as just after dawn each day. Local deer reduction can be very effective in preventing deer from crossing your yard. It takes a herd at least a year or more to realize that a space is vacant and to begin traveling through that area.
19) Q: "Why do there appear to be more deer-vehicle accidents during hunting season?"
A: In CT hunting season extends from mid September to the end of January, and only occurs during the day (½ hour before sunrise to sunset) and never on Sundays. Police accident reports show that deer-vehicle road accidents are not equally distributed throughout hunting season but peak when the days are short and peak rush hour or "drive time" overlaps the time of sunset. and the hours immedatley after. Thus most deer-vehicle accidents do not occur during daylight hours when hunters are around. Hunting is not permitted after dusk and therefore hunters cannot be the cause of the increase in these accidents at this time of year. Rather dawn and dusk are when deer are naturally more active, so the overlap of this deer activity with that of peak traffic will result in more accidents. In November this peak also coincides with the deer mating season, or rut, when deer are also more active and distracted as they pursue each other. Deer-vehicle accidents also frequently occur on Sundays, a day on which there is no hunting permitted in Connecticut at any time of day.
The Alliance asked the CT DEP Wildlife Division to conduct a review of the frequency, distribution and timing of deer-vehicle accidents, based on reports received by state and local police departments. The distribution and timing of vehicular traffic, based on data provided by the Department of Transportation also was examined to investigate this claim.
The following is a summary of this DEP review:
Hunting is allowed on Monday through Saturday, but is prohibited on Sundays. In short, hunting does not occur after dark or on Sundays. We looked at the timing of deer vehicle accidents relative to day of the week and time of the day.
If hunting activity contributed to deer-vehicle accidents, we would expect this effect on deer vehicle accidents to be highest on Saturday because most hunting occurs on Saturdays and lowest on Sunday because no hunting is permitted on Sundays. During the 5-week firearms deer-hunting season in November and December, Friday and Saturday were days with the lowest number of deer-vehicle accidents (Figure 1). More accidents actually occurred on Sundays when no hunting is allowed. Interestingly, deer-vehicle accidents were relatively high on weekdays and relatively low on weekends. This pattern was also evident when looking at deer-vehicle accidents by day for the entire year (figure 2). This closely corresponds with vehicular traffic patterns. Vehicle traffic volume was higher on weekdays and lower on weekends. This suggests that traffic volume was a significant factor in deer-vehicle accident rates.
If hunting activity contributed to deer-vehicle accidents, we also would expect deer-vehicle accidents to be highest during hunting hours (1/2 hr before sunrise to sunset) when hunters are in the woods and lowest at night when hunting is prohibited. Data on time of day of deer-vehicle accidents in the town of Greenwich does not support this concept. Deer vehicle accidents actually peak about 1 to 4 hours after dark (see figure 3).
Again, this peak closely corresponds with peak traffic volume at the end of the workday.
Very similar conclusions were reached in a large 3 year study conducted by the state of Michigan's Dept of Fisheries and Wildlife, Jan 2006. There are 65,000 deer vehicle crashes a year in that state. Of the 186,930 such crashes analyzed, 17% were found to occur after dark and most occurred on Sundays.
Deer-Vehicle Collisions: An Understanding of Accident ... ... DVCs, we used Office of Highway Safety Planning crash data (2001-2003; n = 186,930
accidents) and a self-administered mail survey to identify ... and driver (n ...
www.michigan.gov/documents/mdot/MDOT_RC-1475_177128_7.pdf - 2006-11-02
No scientific data supports the claim that hunting activity increases the rate of deer-vehicle accidents. However, the data does support the fact the vehicular traffic patterns influence deer vehicle accidents. Removing deer through hunting or other deer management techniques is an effective method to reduce deer populations, which will result in fewer deer-vehicle accidents.
20) Q: Why does the FCDMA support changing the law to allow hunting on Sundays?
1. Allowing Hunting on Sundays will increase the time that most hunters have available to help in deer population management: the number of hunters has decreased dramatically while many species such as the white tailed deer are increasing in numbers
2. The increase in the available hunting time is calculated to significantly increase the harvest of deer
3. The current prohibition on hunting on Sundays in CT dates back to Colonial times. Only seven states still prohibit Sunday hunting
4. Sunday hunting is a proven management tool in 42 states
5. Existing DEP programs such as unlimited doe tags, baiting, extended seasons and bonus bucks, have still not corrected the deer population problem
6. Hunting is the only viable population management technique for white tailed deer
7. Permitting Sunday hunting would allow the DEP to manage the deer herd better in areas where there is a special need:
Such a bill could allow Sunday hunting with bows and arrows on selected
private properties in Fairfield County, the Naugatuck River Valley and along
the entire Connecticut coast, at the discretion of property owners and the
state Department of Environmental Protection. It would extend the hunting
season by about 20 days a year. Supporters said it's a deer-management tool,
while opponents warned it might be the first step toward a statewide
"I think you can be very pro- gun control and very pro-hunting at the same
time," Finch said. "The deer need to be brought under control. They're
carrying Lyme disease, jumping into cars and they're out of control."
Dennis Schain, spokesman for the DEP, said the department understands the
concerns some hikers, horseback riders and others may have for Sunday
"We do believe, however, that some form of Sunday hunting is necessary for
game-management purposes, especially to control the size of deer herds in
certain parts of the state," Schain said. "We also believe Sunday hunting
can be used to achieve this goal without creating a danger to public safety
in the outdoors." - CT Post
21) Q. What about "Deer Reflectors" on roads?
There is no conclusive scientific evidence concerning the effectiveness of deer reflectors in reducing deer-vehivle accidents. Reflectors are intended to reflect headlights back into the woods to scare deer away from the roads. Cornell University (2005) reviewed all the available published studies and concluded that use of reflectors is a "method with limited demonstrated effectiveness". Some of the problems sited are difficulty maintaining the reflectors- they are ineffective when dirty, or at the incorrect angle- they often get dislodged by snow plows and other roadside maintenance. If just one reflector is out of action it actually creates a "hole" where deer will concentrate and cross the highway more often. A University of Georgia study found that deer basically ignored the reflectors. Deer-vehicle collisions are on the rise, with growing economic consequences. Insurance officials estimate that 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions nationwide each year incur more than $1.1 billion in damages. And in 2006, State Farm Insurance Company reported a six percent increase—an additional 10,000—deer-collision claims.
In Georgia, the Department of Natural Resources estimates that some 51,000 deer-vehicle collisions occur each year. This makes it fifth in the nation, according to the Institute of Highway Safety. Pennsylvania is in first place, with Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio respectively ranking second, third, and fourth.
In their attempts to reduce the numbers of deer-vehicle collisions, virtually all states try to warn motorists by means of deer-crossing signs, modified speed limits, highway lighting, and driver-awareness programs. Meanwhile, some states also try to deter the deer themselves—using devices such as roadside barriers and roadside warning reflectors.
These studies were conducted at Berry College, near Rome, where the large wooded campus supports a thriving deer herd. For example, graduate student Gino D’Angelo, working under the direction of UGA wildlife researchers Karl Miller and Bob Warren—and Berry College animal physiologist George Gallagher—gathered data on warning reflectors. Their study, published in The Wildlife Society Bulletin, found that deer basically ignored the reflectors. The problem of deer numbers can no longer be ignored, they are a serious safety hazard because of their numbers.