Ridgefield Deer Committee
Ridgefield Recreation Center
195 Danbury Road
Ridgefield, CT 06877
A meeting of the Ridgefield Deer Committee was held in the Copper Beech Room of the Ridgefield Recreation Center, 195 Danbury Road, Ridgefield, CT 06877 on February 8, 2005 at approximately 7:00 p.m.
The following members were present:
Ms. Sesto chaired the meeting. Rudy Marconi, First Selectman, was present. Nancy McDaniel was present to take minutes.
WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS
Opinion was varied on the question of accepting the minutes as written versus accepting revisions to the minutes. After extensive discussion, members voted on three sets of minutes.
Upon motion duly made by Ms. Hoffman, seconded by Mr. Barile and carried by majority vote with two abstentions, it was
RESOLVED, that the minutes of the meeting of December 14, 2005 be and hereby are approved and ordered filed in the minute book of the Committee and the Town Hall minute book.
Upon motion duly made by Ms. Hoffman, seconded by Mr. Bodner and carried by majority vote with one abstention, it was
RESOLVED, that the minutes of the meeting of December 20, 2005 be and hereby are approved and ordered filed in the minute book of the Committee and the Town Hall minute book.
Upon motion duly made by Ms. Hoffman, seconded by Mr. Keeler and carried by majority vote, it was
RESOLVED, that the minutes of the meeting of January 24, 2005, expanded by the presentation notes circulated to members by Ms. Thaxter, be and hereby are approved and ordered filed in the minute book of the Committee and the Town Hall minute book.
Ms. Sesto introduced Denise Savageau, Director of Conservation in Greenwich. Ms. Savageau presented a copy of the “Report on Managing Greenwich’s Deer Population” to the Committee. She summarized the steps that Greenwich took to arrive at the decision to cull the deer population as part of a larger deer management plan for the city.
Greenwich has a population of 62,000 occupying 50 square miles. The city put together a public/private group to start a research project on deer. They worked with Howard Kilpatrick, Wildlife Biologist, Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and the University of Connecticut. The research group studied numbers of deer, accidents and road kills to determine the baseline. They realized that education was needed to inform citizens about the deer problem and about management options.
The University recommended reduction of the deer population for three reasons: undermining of biodiversity, Lyme Disease, and automobile accidents. A serious deer-browse problem exists. In one area of wetlands, the skunk cabbage had been completely eaten. The incidence of Lyme Disease in Greenwich is far higher that the average for Connecticut. Greenwich records almost one automobile/deer collision per week, which may be a low number considering the number of injured animals not reported.
Three town-owned parcels were designated for a sharp-shoot designed to reduce the herd size significantly: two parks and a golf course totaling roughly one square mile in area. An aerial survey indicated that an estimated 120 deer per square mile inhabit the area. The plan is to harvest 100 deer, although the town has budgeted for a 200-deer harvest. They decided to use sharpshooters because they did not want to close the parks for more than two weeks. White Buffalo, a nonprofit wildlife management and research firm, will conduct the hunt.
The hope is that, in “leading by example,” the town will encourage owners of private property to permit deer management as well.
Greenwich applied for two permits from the DEP; the sharpshooting permit, which allows hunting outside the normal season and at night with different types of firearms and a second permit that allows research in fertility control.
The traditional concept behind fertility control is to inoculate the herd and then wait for the numbers to decline. Because the existing deer density is so high now, Greenwich has opted instead for culling and then maintaining the lower numbers with contraception.
After the initial cull, long-term maintenance will include bow hunting and birth control measures where appropriate. The goal is to reduce the population to 10-25 deer per square mile in three-five years. Deer are a long-term problem, and the solution must likewise be long term.
QUESTIONS FROM COMMITTEE MEMBERS
How will Greenwich deal with deer migration? Deer typically do not move outside of a home range, however Greenwich is prepared to deal with them if this occurs.
Was a budget established for the project? The Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting passed a budget of $47,000; Conservation Commission funds brought it up to $50,000.
Why target only three properties? The three properties lie in more densely populated areas traditional hunting on the properties themselves is less acceptable due to tight conditions and high use levels.
What is the budget for fertility control? $8,000, then $3,000 for three more years.
What about private hunters – gun versus bow? Sportsman groups are working with neighborhood associations to encourage hunting. The use of firearms is limited due to population density. People are more comfortable with the idea of bow hunting. The meat will go to soup kitchens. Non-profits and homeowners associations can manage gun hunting because private property does not have the same use as public land, such as dog walkers.
How will Greenwich measure success for hunting on private property? Kills must be reported, so hunting can be regulated. Then assessments will be made on whether hunting should continue or cease.
Is it hard to track bow hunters? They are generally good about reporting. There are organizations that will advise property owners on whether or not it is safe to hunt in a particular area.
How did Greenwich educate the community? They first wanted to document the problem. They had a series of meetings with three associations. Gardens clubs did research, Audubon was supportive in allowing hunting on their property, the Land Conservancy helped - all made the point that biodiversity is important. People realized that the problem is bigger than their individual concerns.
If contraception does not work, will sharpshooters manage the problem? Greenwich will do whatever works. They are committed to managing the problem and realize that there is a cost involved. They are open to new solutions that may come along. They are not promoting recreational hunting, but there will be on-going monitoring and they will open parks for hunting when needed for control of the population.
Will sharpshooters be used for geese? No.
Describe the survey with UConn. They began with aerial survey, radio collaring to see how deer migrated, then a bow-hunters’ survey and homeowners’ survey. 74% of homeowners supported lethal control. A mail-in survey was followed by phone calls. Education of the public was crucial. They addressed attitudes as well as science.
Removing 3,500 deer would require a large number of hunters each taking five deer. Is this feasible? The plan is aggressive. They will commit to three-five years and then assess results.
Are you a full-time employee? Yes. What % of your job is deer related? A lot of time at present. She coordinates the project. Technical training is necessary to write the application.
What is the % of open space in Greenwich? 14-15% both active and passive open space.
Who is measuring results? Conservation Commission working the UConn. The tree department will look at forest impact. Deer crippling is not being measured.
Did any other towns have a similar problem that they worked out successfully? They looked at other towns, but not in detail. They focused on Greenwich’s needs.
QUESTIONS FROM THE PUBLIC
How much of the town budget is allotted to White Buffalo? $47,000 including $16,000 for processing of the deer.
What about Lyme Disease? The Lyme Disease Task Force supported their efforts.
What is the average size of properties for bow hunting? There is no minimum acreage required for bow hunting. Greenwich has multiple zones with varying minimum acreages, some are small. If groups of neighbors agree, it is possible to hunt on small properties.
What is the target for White Buffalo? That will be determined by the amount of acreage they have to work with.
Ms. Gorfinckel made a statement that she had researched White Buffalo and found them to be “blatantly inhumane” and referenced incidences of legal action taken against White Buffalo’s owner.
Ms. Sesto reported requests from the Friends of Animals and representatives of bow hunting to speak before the Committee. Members agreed that interested parties should submit abstracts of their presentations before being invited to speak.
There was general discussion on next steps. The consensus was that it is time to begin to write the final report. As it evolves, action will be taken to fill in the gaps.
The report should include a synopsis of each speaker’s points. It should address the question of whether or not Ridgefield has a deer problem and if so, what action is warranted. Action should be set within the framework of a specific goal, and a means of achieving the goal must be decided.
The next meeting will be on February 28, 2005 in the Copper Beach Room of the Recreation Center. There will be no speaker. Ms. Sesto will obtain a summary of points from potential speakers. Whether or not Ridgefield has a deer problem will be discussed.
Ms. Sesto adjourned the meeting at 8:30 p.m.