Poster Targets Deer Population

Susan Tuz: Danbury and Bethel News Times

THE NEWS-TIMES 

A poster being hung in Danbury and Bethel raises public awareness of the problem of excessive deer in Fairfield County. 
In response to the controversy that surrounds deer hunting in many Fairfield County communities, the Deer Management Alliance created a poster to educate residents on the problems associated with deer overpopulation. 

The poster was released by the Fairfield County Deer Management Alliance for use by all towns in the county. In Danbury and Bethel, posters are being hung this week. 

The hope is that by raising public awareness of the problem of excessive deer, residents of Fairfield County towns will be supportive of efforts to reduce deer numbers. 
 
"There has never been a controlled hunt or a deer committee in Danbury. Danbury is a city and doesn't have the deer problem of Ridgefield or Redding but, if it can assist in bringing the deer numbers down to where state biologists felt they should be, Danbury is willing to participate," said Ralph Mancini, Danbury's representative to the Alliance. 

The poster gives eight key facts about deer and Lyme disease, including the information that Fairfield County has the highest cases per year of Lyme disease in the state. It illustrates the growth curve of the deer population over the last 75 years. 

It also notes that unmanaged deer herds can double in number every two or three years. It states that local towns have up to 60 to 100 deer per square mile; with less than eight deer per square mile, Lyme ticks would virtually disappear. 

It also notes the effects of deer overgrazing on woodlands and on the increase in deer versus vehicle collisions. 

Data for the poster were gathered from DEP wildlife biologist Howard Kilpatrick, Harvard University and the Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station, as well as experts who have spoken at Deer Management Alliance meetings. 

"The alliance is providing a valuable public information service through radio interviews, regular articles in local newspapers and now this new poster, which provides an eye-catching visual display of all the major problems associated with excess deer numbers," said Pat Sesto, executive director of the alliance and former co-chairman of Ridgefield's Deer Committee. 

The poster includes a bar chart that shows where each town fits in the general spectrum of Lyme disease rates across Fairfield County. The most affected towns include Redding, Wilton, Weston and Easton. 

In Redding, a controlled hunt was considered for this season but no actual controlled hunt has occurred yet. 

In Ridgefield, the Land Conservancy, a private non-profit land-management organization, is considering opening a portion of its 500 acres to hunting this season. 

Kilpatrick said Thursday that the Deer Management Alliance's poster may have an effect on public opinion toward culling deer. 

"It certainly seems that as people become more aware and more educated on the impact deer have, the more supportive they become," Kilpatrick said. "I base that on the fact that towns in Fairfield County that have formed deer committees all have come to say that deer overpopulation is a problem we have to do something about." 

Dr. Georgina Scholl, Alliance research chairwoman, said the goal is "not to eradicate deer," but to reduce herds and curb the negative impact of overpopulation in the county. 

The DEP is attempting to cull the population through a modification to hunting regulations providing incentive for hunters to harvest does when they are allowed to hunt on private properties. 

Currently any hunter who checks three "antlerless" deer taken on private land in Fairfield County during the same season can obtain a replacement "either-sex" tag for use during that same season. The regulation was approved in May 2005. A limited number of replacement tags are available at check stations, according to the DEP. 

Bethel First Selectman Robert Burke said Thursday that he is "in favor of the proper, safe controlled hunting of deer to reduce their numbers," but that any controlled hunt has to be discussed and handled by the Bethel Fish & Game Club and the town's animal control. 

In Bethel, open hunts for town residents have taken place on town-owned land of Terre Haute and Chestnut Ridge Reservoir property. The hunts are run by the Bethel Fish & Game Club for members of the club. Some 50 to 60 permits are given out each hunting season, according to former Bethel First Selectman Judy Novachek. 

Contact Susan Tuz 

at stuz@newstimes.com 

or at (203) 731-3352.