Minutes of the Ridgefield Deer Committee

October 12, 2004

Copper Beech Conference Room

Parks and Recreation Building

Danbury Road, Ridgefield, Connecticut




In Attendance:

Rudy Marconi………………..First Selectman/Member ex officio

Major John Roach……………Ridgefield Police Dept./Member ex officio

Patricia Sesto…………………Co-Chairman/Conservation Commission

Tom Belote…………………...Co-Chairman

Gwen Thaxter

Helene Daly

Patricia Hutchings Carlson

Doug Barile…………………..Lyme Disease Task Force

Jack Sanders

Tom Castellani

Ray Sementini

Peter L. Keeler

Betty Snellings………………..Ridgefield Garden Club

Andrew Bodner

Matthew Denesuk

Penny Hoffman

Guy Bocchinno

Dan Damoth

Tom Venus


Chairman Patricia Sesto called the meeting to order at 7:30 and requested the members to identify themselves by name and any organization affiliation. Tom Belote was appointed to take the minutes of the meeting.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi reminded the committee that the minutes and agenda must be filed with the Town Clerk.


Minutes from the last meeting were passed out.  Tom Belote moved that they be accepted as drafted and Helene Daly seconded the motion.  By voice vote the minutes were unanimously accept.


Patricia Sesto passed out a preliminary package of background/research material for the members reading including copies of:  The Connecticut DEP Wildlife Informational Series pamphlet on White Tail Deer; Reduced Abundance of Ixodes scapularis (Acari Ixodidae) and the Tick Parasitoid Ixodiphagus hookeri ( Hymenoptera: Encytridae) With the Reduction of White Tail Deer, a study by Kirby C. Stafford III, Anthony J. Denicola and Howard J. Kilpatrick published by the Entomological Society of America; The Wilton, Connecticut October 2002 Residential Study prepared for the Town of Wilton by Taylor Nelson Sofres Interactive; the Proposal For The Bethel Controlled Deer Hunt by the Bethel Fish and Game Association submitted for approval by the Bethel Board of Selectmen; the Darien Deer Management letters to other local and state organizations; the February 2001 Town of New Canaan Survey on Lyme Disease and Deer Issues; the January 21, 2004 Fund for Animals study on The State of Hunting In America ( This report was also provided to the committee members by Gwen Thaxter); The Aerial Deer Survey of the Devil’s Den and Weir Preserve, 26 December 2002;  The nature Conservancy Hunting Policy, The Recommendations of the Deer Committee for the Town of New Canaan, The Wilton Deer Committee Final Report dated January 3, 2003.


As requested at the previous meeting Major Roach conducted an informal survey of the officers of the Ridgefield Police Department to determine if the officers believed that vehicle speed was a significant factor in the automobile/deer accidents.  Major Roach advised that his officers did not believe that speed was the contributing factor in these accidents.  His officers reported that the absences of skid marks, the area of impact on the vehicle, damage, the physical projection and location of the deer after impact (when the animal carcass was found) and the fact that most of the deer had ran into the surrounding area after the impact led his officers to believe that the erratic movement of deer along the side of the road, the bolting of deer during the rut and other factors were more significant factors.   In reply to a question from another committee member, Major Roach said that the rate of accidents would not be significantly different at a vehicle speed of 25mph vs.35mph.   Major Roach said that these observations and conclusions might not apply to roads such as Route 7 when cars might be speeding at excessive rates in the evening. 


Patricia Sesto noted that Wilton had studied the issue and pinpointed deer/vehicle accidents on a map.  That study reflected higher rates of deer/vehicle accidents on the roads that have faster traveling vehicles.


Andy Bodner questioned why the issue of vehicle speed was consuming the committee’s time at this point in its workings.


Matthew Denesuk added that the committee should start prioritizing issues to move the committee’s study along.  Helena Daly said that she wanted more time to study the various issues before the committee started prioritizing and suggested that at least some of the members who did not have previous experience in deer management issues needed more time before a decision on prioritization was made.


Patricia Sesto asked if the members thought that the Ridgefield Press should begin reporting the deer/vehicle accidents incidents.  Guy Bocchinno said yes and asked for more extensive or descriptive coverage.  Jack Sanders asked that the police provide a summary of the deer accidents to the Press.  Major Roach said that Capt. Brown would be asked to report to the Press.


Jack Sanders reported that he had created a website for the Ridgefield Deer Committee i.e. www.acorn-online.com/deer and passed a printed version of web page to the members.  Gwen Thaxter observed that one of the web page bookmarks was entitled “Deer Problem” and suggested that since the committee had not yet made a finding on that issue that the bookmark should be entitled “Is there a deer problem”.


Penny Hoffman Carlson asked if the website, which was currently tied into the Press, could be inter-connected to the town’s website. 


Rudy Marconi said that it could and would.


Andy Bodner said that the first issue that had to be resolved is whether there was an over population of deer in town.  Matthew Denesuk asked if a population threshold was actually the problem to be dealt with.  Doug Barile there is an environmentally sound and sustainable deer population that should act as a threshold goal.  Guy Bocchinno said that it would be important to have something quantifiable before the committee issued something in public.


Chairman Sesto advised the committee that Howard Kilpatrick, the state biologist and expert on white tail deer, would be addressing the committee shortly. 


Doug Barile gave a presentation on the deer/Lyme disease issue.  Mr. Barile gave the committee a 15 page report based on the work of the Ridgefield Lyme Disease Task Force which contained the following summary: “Ridgefield has a significant Lyme Disease problem, Deer are at the root of the problem, Without addressing deer overpopulation, tick control is challenging at best.” Mr. Barile said that Ridgefield had the second highest rate of Lyme disease increase in the state. 


Tom Castellani asked what was the gravity/severity of Lyme or related diseases to other diseases.  Patricia Sesto advised that Lyme disease is an epidemic and referred him to the New Canaan and Wilton reports that she had passed out to the members. 


Peter Keeler questioned why there had been a decrease in the incidence of Lyme disease in Old Lyme, Connecticut and asked if the town had done anything to achieve that result.  Doug Barile said that he had called the town but had been unable to speak to someone knowledgeable in the area. The question would be posed to Howard Kilpatrick and Doug Barile when they addressed the committee. 


Gwen Thaxter asked what was the status of preventative vaccines for the disease.  Doug Barile said that it had been taken off the market and that the pharmaceutical companies had found that it was not profitable.  He said that there were also threats of litigation against the pharmaceutical companies relating to whether individuals had contracted the illness as a result of the pre-approval testing. 


Helene Daly advised that the Norwalk Public Health Department had determined that the required 3 vaccinations was expensive and only 75 % of those administered had developed the required immunity.


Gwen Thaxter asked if certain people might be more susceptible than others and Doug Barile suggested that she address her question to Dr. Kirby Stafford when he addresses the committee. 


Pat Sesto advised that the nest meeting would be on October 25, 2004 when DEP biologist Howard Kilpatrick and Georgina Scholl, M.D. and co-chairman of the Fairfield County Municipal Deer Alliance would address the committee.


Gwen Thaxter was assigned the responsibility of scheduling a representative from the Friends of Animals to address the committee.


The issue of spraying to alleviate ticks was a viable deer management technique.  Doug Barile suggested that the question be posed to Dr. Kirby Stafford when he addresses the committee. 


The meeting was then opened to the public:  Neil Casey of 220 Old Sib Road questioned how many of the Ridgefield Lyme disease cases could have been picked up from out of town vacations.  Mr. Casey said that he had never picked up a deer in Ridgefield despite the fact that he worked as a carpenter and was outside all of the time.  He said that he found ticks when he went on vacation to Martha’s Vineyard.  Tom Belote responded that Martha’s Vineyard always had a substantial dog tick (or wood tick) problem and that bathers back in the 1960’s, long before the Lyme disease outbreak, frequently found dog ticks on their bodies as well as on their dogs.  While dog/wood ticks can transmit spotted fever, they are not known to transmit Lyme disease or the other diseases that have been affecting our population.


Linda Walker of 260 Old Sib Road said that individuals who believe that Lyme disease has infected them must push their physicians to do a proper testing including a west block test.  She said doctors refrain from giving that test for economic reasons. Gwen Thaxter added she believed it was an insurance reimbursement issue with the medical committee.


Committee member Don Damonth advised that he had suffered the long term affects of Lyme disease for 14 years and has suffered 24/7 in total pain.  He advised the other members of the committee that, “It is like having been hit by a locomotive,  but it doesn’t stop.”


Frank D’Angelo of Old Sib Road presented a petition signed by 80+ residents of the Old Sib Road, Blue Ridge Road and Mamanasco Road area that asked the town to adopt a 10 acre minimum acreage requirement for bow hunting such as that which currently exists for firearms in Connecticut. Mr. D’ Angelo said that the issue had arisen because on land owner in the neighborhood had allowed a hunter to bow hunt on his property and that on two occasions wounded deer had expired on the properties of abutting and near abutting properties. The hunting had apparently occurred in the early morning and the fallen deer created a substantial backlash against bow hunting in this one acre or less neighborhoods He advised that only 4 area residents refused to sign the petition.  Mr. D’Angelo said that he comes from a family of hunters and is not opposed to hunting but that he believed that hunting on one-acre parcels was not safe.  Co-chairman Tom Belote said that the issue of hunting on private property in Ridgefield was within the charge of the committee and that it had been addressed by the deer committees of neighboring towns.  He accepted a copy of the petition that Mr. D’Angelo presented for the committee’s record and advised that the committee would revisit the issue.


The meeting was adjourned at 9:00 P.M.