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Deer Lady of Cheektowaga and the DEC

Wildlife Watch: Deer Lady sentence reveals DEC failures


Wildlife Watch, Inc.
PO Box 562, New Paltz, NY 12561
Voice:(845) 256-1400; Fax:(845) 845-622-7999 Email: wildwatch@verizon.net  

Date: For Immediate Release, June 16, 2004
Re: The Deer Lady
|Contact: James Van Alstine (845) 594-2528

Wildlife Watch: Deer Lady sentence reveals DEC failures

Anita Depczynski, lately famous in Western New York as the Deer Lady, was sentenced to 15 days in jail as a result of erratic policy and selective enforcement by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Ms Depczynski chose to take a firm stand for her deer friends and against unchecked development and a heavy-handed DEC regulation. She declined community service or a fine and chose to stick to her principles and do her time rather than yield to the DEC’s irrational deer feeding ban.

Within hours, Ms Depczynski was released pending appeal as Judge Shirley Troutman found reasonable constitutional grounds to question the DEC regulation. Ms Depczynski’s refusal of a fine or community service and willingness to accept a jail sentence helps to force judicial scrutiny of the DEC rule.

The DEC purports the feeding ban is in place to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease. As written, the ban is so broad that people feeding birds or even home gardeners with compost piles could run afoul of the DEC. Conversely, venison farms, game parks and roadside zoos that pose far greater risk of introducing or spreading CWD are exempt from the rule. Ms Depczynski’s case reveals DEC regulatory overreach, capricious rule-making and enforcement, and a fundamental lack of scientific understanding of CWD.

Throughout the trial and sentencing process, Judge Ronald E. Kmiotek allowed the defense to enter very little regarding the DEC rule its ill-conceived foundation. This lack of understanding was revealed in court yesterday as Judge Kmiotek’s comments indicated a belief that CWD could be casually spread from deer to children, as if it were bacterial. CWD, like mad cow disease, is caused by a protein and would normally be introduced through tainted commercial feeds (such as those used in cattle ranching, venison farms and game parks). There is no CWD in New York and, even if there were, the children of Cheektowaga would have to eat the deer to risk contraction of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (the human version of CWD or mad cow disease).

While it is shocking Ms Depczynski, or anyone, could go to jail for tossing a bit of corn to some deer, the case provides opportunity to overturn an ill-conceived DEC rule and shine a light on that agency’s arrogant overreach and promulgation of flat-earth thinking. The deer of Cheektowaga and Ms Depczynski are mere victims of DEC mismanagement and rampant sprawl, but her courage may well serve to check these powerful forces.

Free Anita. Spare the deer. Shame on the DEC.

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