Deer Lady of Cheektowaga and the DEC
In Cheektowaga on June 15 a petite grandmother was hauled,
handcuffed, off to jail for feeding deer. Under a Department of
Environmental Conservation rule, Anita Depczynski and thousands of other
friends of wildlife are now criminals. The DEC rule is so broad that folks
feeding birds in public parks and even gardeners who compost could run afoul
of the DEC.
Anita’s sentencing is a travesty. The judge in
Cheektowaga, Ronald Kmiotek, could have stood up to the DEC himself and set
Anita free. Now that privilege goes to Judge Shirley Troutman in the appeal.
She’ll have plenty of grounds to throw out the DEC rule: regulatory
overreach, misunderstanding of science on chronic wasting disease, selective
enforcement or more.
Aside from exposing DEC excess and incompetence, Anita’s
case reveals how ugly things can get when people who stand to profit from
development find wildlife in the way. Cheektowaga and other towns must begin
to consider the fate of wildlife. Compassionate citizens and wildlife
advocates, like Wildlife Watch, must be included in the planning process. To
learn more see:
Other possible talking points:
• The Stiglemeier Park deer are a stranded herd that needs
a safe, humane and sustainable management policy.
• The DEC deer feeding ban comes down hard on ordinary
people, but exempts places like venison farms, roadside zoos and canned
hunts that are far more likely to be the start of a CWD outbreak.
• The DEC deer feed ban ignores the best science on CWD.
The rule acts as if it is a bacterial or viral infection that may spread
through casual contact when it is recognized as a prion disease (a
transmissible spongiform encephalopathy [TSE] like mad cow).
• Anita was at first singled out for prosecution, but
later when claims of selective enforcement became a concern, two older
gentlemen with birdseed were cited. Rather than deflecting attention from
the selective enforcement concern, this heightens the concerns regarding how
overreaching the regulation is. Could a gardener with a compost pile be
• The DEC ignored the deer of Stiglemeier Park for decades
as development surrounded them and cut them off from normal range. Suddenly,
with the deer feed ban in place and new pressure for development in the area
the DEC moves in to cite people for feeding deer. Ignoring the development
impacts on the deer was negligent and enforcing the feeding ban is
• A DA in Franklin County found the DEC regulation so
overbroad and poorly written that he threw out a citation against a man
there. Cheektowaga should have done the same.