Deer: The prettiest creatures Westporters love to hate.
Soon they (the deer) will have a lot more to worry about than tall fences and repellents.
An organization called Fairfield County Municipal Deer Management Alliance is on their tail. Behind the Bambi-sounding name lies a group with a mission. They may be to the animal world what Americans for Immigration Control is to humans.
We the undersigned electors of the Town of Westport request the RTM and First Selectman to create a plan for the control of the Town’s deer herd, the current size of which threatens our health, safety, environment and quality of life.
The Alliance is not pro-deer. Their site cites Lyme Disease, vehicle collisions and ravaged backyards. Faced with those facts, deer don’t have a leg to stand on.
The Alliance then refers to a study by “two PhD’s from the Department of Health Policy and Management of New York Medical College” estimating the annual cost of deer to Westport at $8,934,162.
And, the Alliance says, “this is conservative.”
(Wondering where that money goes? It’s hard to tell — there was no direct link to the study — but nosing around the site I found references to “vehicle accidents with deer, landscape losses, tick and deer spray programs, medical expenses due to tick-borne diseases in residents and their pets, special ed costs for schools with Lyme affected kids, stormwater damage abatement due to erosion from loss of the understory.”
Costs that are impossible to estimate include “quality of life issues, lost work days, higher auto and health insurance premiums for individuals and towns, and loss of income from nature centers suffering from environmental degradation with the loss of fragile plant and bird species etc.)”
The Alliance seeks “a safe, humane and effective program to begin to confront the problem.” Assistance and advice is available, they say, “from our State DEP officers and leaders in our sister towns that have already implemented deer management plans. These people are ready, willing and able to help us.”
Then the Alliance moves in for the kill.
They note: “This is not a new issue for Westport. The ‘no hunting’ ordinance, unique to our Town in Connecticut, has been debated over and over. But the problem does not go away. If countries in southern Africa can manage their burgeoning elephant populations, surely we can confront our own animal menace here.”
So how do Africans manage their elephants?
According to the Species Survival Commission, methods include “culling, translocation, range expansion, manipulation of water sources, and contraception.”
I’m not sure where we would translocate deer to. We can’t expand their range or manipulate their water. And I can’t even conceive of deer (let alone elephant) condoms.
Which leaves culling.
The Alliance cuts to the chase in a section of its website headed “Deer Population Reduction.”
Links lead readers to articles like “Deer management study points to hunting as solution” and “For Environmental Balance, Pick Up a Rifle.” The rifle article — by Nicholas Kristoff in the New York Times — takes a balanced view of the issue. In fact, Kristoff says, “hunting is as natural as bird-watching.” So much for the liberal media.
But Westport is, as we all know, special. Discharging firearms — even bow hunting — is prohibited everywhere in town. According to a police spokesman, the only hunting allowed is waterfowl — and that’s below the high-water line. Plus, you’ve got to approach your prey by boat.
The Alliance seems ready to change — or at least challenge — that. They don’t see this as a hunting-rights issue; to them it’s about safety (Lyme disease, vehicular strikes) and cents (at least $8,934,162 a year).
So what’s ahead: New regulations? Culled Killed herds? Specified times when parents will be warned to keep kids indoors?
Who knows? Only one thing is certain: When the RTM takes this issue up, all sides of the issue will fire away.