FAIRFIELD COUNTY TOWNS FORM
ALLIANCE FOR DEER MANAGEMENT
Faced with multiple problems caused by the continuing over-abundance of deer in the region, ten Fairfield County cities and towns have been meeting since February to help their own and other local communities find workable solutions. This consortium now forms The Fairfield County Municipal Deer Management Alliance.
The Alliance’s Mission: “The Fairfield County Municipal Deer Management Alliance is a consortium of municipalities in Fairfield County whose purpose is to foster a collaborative approach to managing the region’s abundant deer population and its impact on ecological integrity, public health and safety.”
The already widely known and well documented problems created by deer, especially in woodland borders include: loss of forest undergrowth and habitats for other species, loss of saplings and wildflowers preventing re-growth, damage to crops and landscape plants; extensive and costly road accidents impairing public safety; also an epidemic of the debilitating Lyme disease with Fairfield County having an extremely high incidence; plus disposal of deer dying from causes other than by lawful hunting. Experts note that a doe will typically have two offspring yearly for 12 years in her lifetime, while each year her succeeding offspring produce similar generations. With this type of exponential growth, the population has the potential to double every two years.
These problems have prompted several towns, including Greenwich, New Canaan, Darien, and Wilton to set up productive, town-authorized committees. They recommend a variety of methods of protection and control. In doing so, they draw heavily upon research and counsel of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and state experts on deer ticks and Lyme disease. In addition, several town committees have invested substantially in professional surveys of local homeowners. Until recently, the efforts were largely conducted independent of the experience and knowledge of neighboring towns.
The Alliance is intended to provide an efficient means for towns to learn from each other, whether the lessons benefit an existing town deer committee or an effort to establish a deer committee. The members also recognize that a unified voice of multiple communities will be stronger at both the state and local levels. Each town or city that participates with the Alliance has much more to gain from the knowledge and experience of their colleagues. Further, it is more efficient for one member to be responsible for bringing research and legislative activities to the group’s attention, rather than each member conducting independent searches.
In order to facilitate these expectations, the Alliance has established subcommittees to address public education, establish a “tool box” of materials for municipalities contemplating their own deer committees, and also to monitor legislative and pharmaceutical activities.
Given the deer related statistics for Fairfield County, the need for the Alliance is high. The CT Department of Environmental Protection has identified Fairfield County as having excess deer populations and has responded by allowing increased opportunities to hunt does in order to reduce the herd size. Likewise, Kirby Stafford, PhD with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, has stated that in recent years1/4 to 1/3 of the state’s reported Lyme disease cases occur in Fairfield County. These indicators, coupled with the high incidence of deer v. vehicle collisions and excessive browsing of the under-story in natural areas, has made it clear that the area towns need to collaborate to best protect the health and safety of our citizens and protect our natural resources.
The new Alliance was instituted in February following a request by The South Western Regional Planning Agency’s (SWRPA) chief elected officials. The municipal CEOs asked Robert H. Wilson, Executive Director of SWRPA, to write to elected county officials inviting them to send representatives to an organizational meeting at the New Canaan Town Hall. Despite the administrative oversight by SWRPA, it is the goal of the Alliance to wholly involve towns outside SWRPA’s region, too.
To date, the Alliance has met with the Ridgefield Board of Selectmen, is scheduled to meet with the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials, and will begin a series of public information articles. Other work of The Alliance will be publicized by the issue of periodic public reports.
CONTACT: Patricia Sesto, Coordinator Patricia.Sesto@wiltonct.org
or Kent Haydock, Public Educ. Chr. KentHaydock@aol.com
May 29, 2004, page 2