Controlled Hunts in Fairfield County towns
Patricia Sesto, Chair, FCDMA
Deer population control through organized “controlled hunts” and private hunting begins each Sept 15.
With several Fairfield County Deer Management Alliance communities now finalizing their controlled hunt plans, the lessons learned from previous seasons are being incorporated for this year. The towns of Wilton, Darien, Ridgefield, and Redding each sponsored controlled hunts, as well as Audubon of Greenwich, The Nature Conservancy’s Devil’s Den in Weston, Wilton Land Conservation Trust, and the Weir Preserve of the Weir Farm Arts Center in Wilton.
The controlled hunt results for the 2009 deer season have now been fully reported on in each of the host communities and this information will be used to assess last year’s program and set goals for the upcoming season. The hunting season in Fairfield County begins on September 15th. Since this is one of the areas in the state most seriously affected by deer overabundance, the season here extends until January 31st each year.
A controlled hunt describes a process by which a limited number of hunters are specifically authorized to enter designated open space parcels under prescribed conditions. The days and hours of hunting, elevated tree stand locations, weapons permitted, and other details are dictated by the host organization. In all the cases cited above except Redding, the properties were closed to the public for the duration of the hunt. In all cases there were communications with the public through newspaper coverage, direct mailings, and/or sign posting.
For the towns of Wilton and Darien, and the Audubon and Nature Conservancy, 2009 was just another season in a multi year program. The Nature Conservancy’s Devil’s Den is the longest running effort; the 2009 hunt will be its ninth. For Ridgefield and Redding the 2009 season marks their fourth hunting season. As is expected, there was more controversy associated with the first year hunts; a pattern encountered by most of the programs.
In the 2006 hunt, Redding brought in the highest total of 100 deer. Wilton (including Land Trust and Weir Preserve) culled 70 deer, Darien 8, Ridgefield 25, and Audubon of Greenwich, 22. Within these hunts, as was the case across Connecticut, harvest numbers were generally lower than normal. An unseasonably warm fall and strong acorn crop were cited as the likely cause of the weaker harvest. Even with lower than desired numbers, removing deer from the population today means those deer will not reproduce and multiply next year.
Dr. Georgina Scholl of Redding cautions residents and officials not to be overly enthusiastic about this “slowing of growth.” “Our goal cannot be simply to slow growth. That won’t address our problems. Towns need to significantly reduce the existing deer population if we are to find relief from Lyme disease, forest damage, and deer/vehicle accidents,” stated Scholl
Annual controlled hunts are valued components of each community’s effort to reduce the white-tailed deer population, but cannot alone achieve the necessary reduction in deer numbers. Many Fairfield County towns have, according to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection’s latest aerial deer survey, a density of deer that exceeds 60 deer per square mile and seek to drop that number down to less than 20. In addition to controlled hunts on larger parcels, Alliance towns urge their residents to join the effort and allow hunting on their private properties as well. In many towns private residential land accounts for around 70% of total land.
If a property owner wishes to find a hunter, they can visit the Fairfield County Deer Alliance website at www.deeralliance.com and request information or check in with local town halls or sportsmen associations. Many towns keep lists of hunters looking for properties to hunt. The website also includes a guide for interviewing hunters and information on donating venison to the “Hunters for the Hungry” or Hunt to Feed program.
Additionally, Alliance members encourage residents to share their support of deer herd reduction with their town and state officials, noting that “people who support issues are less likely to speak out than those who oppose them, leaving our leaders to make decisions based on a very small, but vocal opposition.”
The Alliance was founded in February 2004 to foster regional development of effective deer population control. Member towns include the following: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Greenwich, New Canaan, Newtown, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Weston, Westport and Wilton. For more information on deer management programs and to find out what your town is doing go to www.deeralliance.com
Contact: Patricia Sesto, FCDMA at email@example.com,