Deer hunting may not be the answer in Darien
Published 4:56 pm, Thursday, January 6, 2011
Controlling wildlife populations is a constant battle for many states but the problem may be complicated by the very methods used.
Attorney Linda Heinberg, who also writes about the politics of wildlife conservation, said the issue of controlling animal populations is a complicated one.
"The biggest issue with hunting is the basic biological phenomenon that it doesn't reduce populations unless the population is lowered to near extinction," Heinberg said.
Instead of using controlled hunts, Heinberg suggested that if deer populations were left unchecked, they would reach a natural state of sustainability.
"If you didn't kill or cull, the populations would reach a natural limit where deer are undernourished which would decrease the population," Heinberg said.
This issue with hunting, Heinberg said, is that the deer are only reduced temporarily because the remaining deer will have more food available which allows them to breed more often.
An available food source isn't the only contributor to large deer populations. Heinberg said weather and natural predators, such as coyotes, can also play a role in keeping deer in check.
"Winter is one of the worst times for deer," Heinberg said. "If you kill some deer then you leave more shelter for the remaining deer and they will have a better chance of surviving."
Heinberg said predators like coyotes are also an effective means for controlling the population, but states that use predator control programs inhibit the process.
Even though information is available for alternative methods of deer population control, the question still remains as to why hunting is the favored option.
"People intuitively think hunting will help," Heinberg said. "A lot of states want to allow recreational hunting to bring in more hunter revenue."
However, Heinberg said the method of culling is ineffective because the deer population is only reduced temporarily.
"Nature will replenish itself, so culling is not effective for how much is spent in each community," Heinberg said.
Heinberg also explained that many people don't protect their gardens, either by fencing or spraying, which encourages deer to feed in that area.
"I don't disagree that there are a lot of deer," Heinberg said. "The problem is that animals produce a surplus of offspring knowing that some will die to due to starvation, disease or predators, but now that surplus is surviving and the population is increasing."
Wildlife Biologist for the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection Howard Kilpatrick said surveys done by the department have shown a steady decrease in deer populations since the state began engaging in both controlled and regulated hunts in 2000.
"The idea that deer will actually increase their populations in an area where they are hunted is correct under certain circumstances," Kilpatrick said. "If the deer population is so overabundant that the deer are stressed, then removing some of that population would encourage growth because the deer would no longer be stressed."
However, Kilpatrick cautioned that the deer would only return to their pre-stress levels; they wouldn't begin reproducing at an increased rate to replenish their population.
Kilpatrick said the controlled hunts and regulated hunts allow the state to keep deer populations in check without adversely affecting the deer.
"If you take most of the deer out of an area and the deer that remain will still be healthy," Kilpatrick said.
Reasonable deer populations for communities are about 22 deer per square mile or eight to 10 deer per square mile if a community is trying to decrease the number of cases of Lyme disease, Kilpatrick said.
There are some steps that homeowners can take to prevent property damage and help keep deer populations in check, Heinberg said. One step is to put up fencing on property to the point that such a method is feasible, or residents can spray their property on a regular basis, Heinberg said.
Kilpatrick said the most effective means for keeping deer out of gardens or off property is to put up a deer fence which would have to be eight to 10 feet high. In terms of repellents, Kilpatrick said no one repellent is 100 percent effective for a given situation.
The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection website states that 43 deer were harvested in Darien in 2010, half of which were does.