Southern Westchester deer-hunt hitch: More people
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Southern Westchester deer-hunt hitch: More people

FROM The Journal News
February 13, 2015

County program to reduce deer population may need different tactics in southern Westchester.

Westchester would send only its best bow hunters some of whom have already notched double-digit kills in county parks if it rolled out a deer-hunting program at the Marshlands Conservancy in Rye.

Since the county started a deer-management program in its parks six years ago, between 60 and 100 archers licensed at a time have killed 525 deer, according to John Baker, director of conservation for the Department of Parks.

The county's efforts have mostly focused on upper Westchester, north of Interstate 287, and responding to deer overpopulation concerns in Rye and Mamaroneck down county would mean contending with more development, a denser population of people, and increased safety concerns. County-approved hunters descending upon county-owned parks in southern Westchester may be a long shot but, if permits were given, they would only go to two or three extremely successful archers.

"It would be very limited, very skilled and very good marksmen, so that you don't have the issue of a wounded deer going into a surrounding neighborhood or into a street," Baker told county lawmakers at a joint committee meeting discussing the deer program on Tuesday.

Baker said the parks department has taken a regional approach to reducing the number of deer, but there is some question about whether the methods that have worked in northern Westchester are realistic options along the Sound Shore.

Rye and Mamaroneck have asked the state and county to step in to help reduce the deer population in the area, which Mamaroneck Mayor Norman Rosenblum called "a clear and present danger" to drivers. The village and city are hosting a "deer management summit" Feb. 25 at Rye City Hall, inviting state and county officials.

Rosenblum said that, since the area is densely populated with people, relocation or sterilization efforts might be an alternative to hunting although the cost and effectiveness of those programs may be factors.

Co-existing with wildlife such as geese and deer is a reality of living in the suburbs, said Tuckahoe resident Kiley Blackman, founder of Animal Activists of Westchester. She said her group would prefer humane alternatives, including injecting does with a contraceptive vaccine. Hastings-on-Hudson began a contraceptive program last year at a cost of roughly $10,000 a year.

"You just don't kill your way out of it," Blackman said.

In the more rural northern Westchester, regulated hunting of white-tailed deer has been the focus of the county program launched to promote forest regeneration. Hunters have to pass a proficiency test.

Ward Pound Ridge Reservation saw its deer population reduced from 65 per square mile to less than 20 per square mile since the bow-hunting program started, Baker said.

Reducing the deer population is not only necessary for the ecosystem and safety, but also for quality of life, Daniel Lemons of Hastings, a biology professor at the City University of New York, told county legislators Tuesday. His neighbors have fenced themselves off from one another to try to keep deer out of their yards, he said.

"Every time I go around, I see a new fence that's gone up and, some of them, they look like fortresses," he said. 

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