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 May 23, 2005 at approximately 7:00 p.m.
The following members were present:
Ms. Sesto chaired the meeting. Nancy McDaniel was present to take minutes.
INTRODUCTIONS – Mr. Belote asked members to introduce themselves. Ms. Sesto mentioned the “upset” of recent meetings and expressed the hope that the committee could move forward and fulfill the mission set for it by the Selectmen.
The minutes of the May 10, 2005 meetings were reviewed. Mr. Bocchino stated that he was not objecting to Ms. Gorfinkle’s comments in general, only the portion when she made accusations against a member of the public. He requested the minutes be changed to reflect this correction.
Ms. Hoffman moved, and the committee approved by consensus the corrected minutes of the meeting of May 10, 2005.
Review Draft Report Segments – Mr. Sementini thanked Ms. Sesto for preparing the draft report. For the record, Ms. Thaxter objected to the report. Members agreed to study the report during the coming week and act on it at the next meeting.
Ms. Sesto asked the group to focus on refining positions in the discussion to follow.
Lyme Disease – Ms. Sesto noted that the Committee should refrain from repeating the work of the Lyme Disease Task Force, although some crossover is inevitable. Mr. Barile said that spraying for ticks is cost effective compared to other remediation means, however it does bring environmental consequences.
Property management means getting rid of tick habitat: correcting moist areas, removing leaf litter and debris piles, putting down a buffer of wood chips, keeping swing sets from edge planting, installing bird feeders away from houses.
In answer to a question about how the Deer Committee can help the Task Force, Mr. Barile said that they need money. The have plans for projects on 18 sites and need funding. They plan to try landscape management, spraying in areas where nothing else works, bait boxes, signs warning that an area is tick infested. Some spraying and bait boxes are funded, but they need more. Mr. Barile said that spraying a residential yard costs $180 and should be done twice a year. Bait boxes cost $35-$40 each and must be placed 30’ apart at the perimeter.
A measurement monitoring program is also being implemented, which will indicate if progress is being made. He noted that a lot of effort is needed for very little result. Deer control is necessary to make any progress at all.
Mr. Damoth described the deer fence and the cattle grate at the entrance that he installed to control deer, but said that a fence does not control ticks. They are carried in by rodents. Mr. Barile said that having a habitat for ticks is critical after they drop off the carrier. Removing deer would reduce the spread of ticks.
Mr. Sementini noted that some neighborhoods do not allow fencing. Mr. Denesuk said that fencing some areas only means that deer go elsewhere.
Mr. Bocchino suggested a form of public education about the life cycle of ticks and said that it should be part of the school curriculum.
According to Mr. Barile, spraying the whole town is not an option because of expense, allergic reactions and poisoning of fish. Pyrethrin is the chemical used. It could be part of the solution, but there are downsides: long-term safety is unknown, it is not species-specific, meaning it kills more than ticks, and other wildlife is impacted. It might be useful in specific areas, such as the running trail at the high school. Ms. Sesto recommended listing the pros and cons of each of these recommendations.
Mr. Barile distributed the latest version of his subcommittee’s report.
Mr. Damoth noted that deer are the transportation system for ticks. They crawl up vegetation, wait until they detect carbon dioxide and heat, then jump off plant and look for host to feed on. Memorial Day is the best time to spray. It is important to remove leaf litter as well. He said that starting medication within 48 hours of infection is important to avoid long-term problems. He recommended the tick control program implemented in Wilton as the best.
Automobile Collisions – Mr. Pepin said that reflectors could be a good idea. Mr. Bocchino stated that they had worked well in Virginia, but were expensive - $5000 per mile plus maintenance fees. The Fairfield County Deer Committee learned that insurance companies have funded some programs. The Committee recommended investigating reflectors.
Mr. Bocchino suggested using the town census to identify where crossing signs could take effect. The Department of Public Works should be made aware of roadside shrubbery management that would discourage deer browsing too close to the roads.
Residential Landscaping – It is important to choose plants carefully because deer eat almost anything. Spraying is good if deterrents are changed regularly and new growth is sprayed.
Mr. Sanders mentioned ultrasonic controls. Mr. Pepin said that they cost $800 each installed and two are needed. They are effective in a 30’ radius, but do not keep deer off the property, just out of a specific area. Although they bother bats, pets are not affected.
Dr. Schmitz’s recommendation that yards be reduced in size to discourage deer habitat was discussed. Concern that the idea would likely be rejected by residents was raised. Others felt residents should be informed how to manage their property to reduce deer habitat.
Members discussed the need to start a program before the problem gets worse. Members asked for clarification regarding the relationship between the additional studies recommended and the recommended herd reduction. Ms. Sesto reminded members that at the last meeting, it was agreed that many of the recommendations would be implemented in parallel. The committee wanted the recommendation narrative to more clearly state that herd reduction is not contingent upon obtaining the additional recommended studies.
Ms. Sesto will obtain studies from other towns regarding deer density that will be added to Ridgefield’s data.
Ms. Thaxter announced that she did not support the conclusions of the Committee and would like to submit a minority report. At a previous meeting, the Committed had decided not to vote on that idea. After discussion, members suggested that Ms. Thaxter write a report and then it will be addressed by the Committee.
Ms. Sesto asked if the Committee should set a deadline to complete its work. Writing the last section, formatting it, composing a transmittal letter to the Selectmen and compiling a list of speakers remain to be done. Members agreed to discuss the expanded report at the next meeting and to hold a special meeting if necessary to approve the final report.
Public Comment – Ms. Sesto called for public comment. No members of the public asked to speak.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday, June 14, 2005 in the Copper Beech Room of the Recreation Center.
Ms. Sesto adjourned the meeting at 8:13 p.m.