Petition to reduce deer in Westport: $8.9M wasted every year because of effects of deer and ticks
Peter Knight, Westport
Westport, Connecticut. June 2010
We have collected over 230 signatures, with 100 more on the website, and have submitted our 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.
And thank you to the many who took time out to sign or gather signatures for the petition.