DEER ALLIANCE CREATED 5/26/04
FAIRFIELD COUNTY TOWNS FORM
ALLIANCE FOR DEER MANAGEMENT
Faced with multiple problems caused by the continuing over-abundance of deer in the region, ten Fairfield County cities and towns began meeting in February 2004 to help their own and other local communities find workable solutions. This consortium now forms the 18-town Fairfield County Deer Management Alliance.
The Alliance’s Mission: “The Fairfield County Deer Management Alliance is a consortium of municipalities in Fairfield County whose purpose is to foster a collaborative approach to managing the region’s abundant deer population and its impact on ecological integrity, public health and safety.” The Alliance does not itself manage deer populations. It aims to study, educate, inform and raise awareness of the benefits of a balanced deer population and to share the current state of the art with those towns or institutions that want to use this method of preventing tick borne diseases.
Current town-appointed representatives cover a broad mixture of backgrounds and expertise including the medical profession, public health, environment and conservation, animal control, legal profession, business, journalism and homemakers. We consult with the recognized state and national experts in deer and tick biology to learn about deer management and its benefits to reducing the incidence of tick borne diseases, deer/vehicle accidents and protecting our ecology. We gather reports and input from many existing and highly professional resources who have been studying the consequences of deer overpopulation for, in some cases, over 20 years. These reports are available as a public resource. We also commission our own studies and reports.
The already widely known and well documented problems created by deer, especially in woodland borders include: loss of forest undergrowth and habitats for other species, loss of saplings and wildflowers preventing re-growth, damage to crops and landscape plants; extensive and costly road accidents impairing public safety; also an epidemic of the debilitating Lyme disease with Fairfield County having an extremely high incidence; plus disposal of deer dying from causes other than by lawful hunting. Experts note that a doe will typically have two offspring yearly for 12 years in her lifetime, while each year her succeeding offspring produce similar generations, resulting in a doubling of unmanaged deer populations in less than two years.
These problems had already prompted several towns, including Greenwich, New Canaan, Darien, and Wilton to set up productive, town-authorized committees. They recommend a variety of methods of protection and control. In doing so, they draw heavily upon research and counsel of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and state experts on deer ticks and Lyme disease. In addition, several town committees have invested substantially in professional surveys of local homeowners. Until recently, the efforts were largely conducted independently of the experience and knowledge of neighboring towns.
The Alliance is intended to provide an efficient means for towns to learn from each other, whether the lessons benefit an existing town deer committee or an effort to establish a deer committee. The members also recognize that a unified voice of multiple communities will be stronger at both the state and local levels. Each town or city who participates with the Alliance has much to gain from the knowledge and experience of their colleagues. Further, it is more efficient for one member to be responsible for bringing research and legislative activities to the group’s attention rather than each member town conducting independent searches.
In order to facilitate these expectations, the Alliance has established subcommittees to address public education, establish a “toolbox” of materials for municipalities contemplating their own deer committee, research deer and tick population reduction methods and studies and monitor legislative activities.
Given the deer related statistics for Fairfield County, the need for the Alliance is high. The CT Department of Environmental Protection has identified much of Fairfield County as having excessive deer populations and has responded by allowing increased opportunities to hunt does in order to reduce the herd size. Likewise, Dr. Kirby Stafford, PhD with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station has stated that about 1/3 of the state’s Lyme disease cases occur in Fairfield County alone. These indicators, coupled with the high incidence of deer v. vehicle collisions and excessive browsing of the understory in natural areas, has made it clear that the area towns need to collaborate to best protect the health and safety of our citizens and protect our natural resources.
The new Alliance was instituted in February 2004 at an organizational meeting at the New Canaan Town Hall following an initiative by the Wilton Deer Management Committee to create a regional partnership. They quickly gained the support of the founding eight towns and the South Western Regional Planning Agency’s (SWRPA) chief elected officials.
It is the goal of the Alliance to wholly involve all towns in Fairfield County. Since February 2004 another 8 towns have joined the Alliance.
To date (September 2010), the Alliance has met with both the Commissioner and Director of Wildlife Division at CT DEP, Forestry and Horticulture experts at Ct Agriculture Experiment Station, Ridgefield Board of Selectmen, the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials, the SWRPA and 6 other regional Councils of Government in our outreach to other counties, the First Selectman and Police Department of the Town of Easton and of New Milford, and Deer and Lyme Prevention Committees in Brookfield, Newtown and Fairfield and has written a series of public information articles. There have been several radio interviews with members of the Alliance and Alliance representatives have given talks and slide presentations at meetings across the area, including several at Danbury Hospital. The Alliance has produced an educational poster which summarizes the three major problems associated with excess deer. This poster is available through this web site on request and is currently displayed in some town halls, libraries, conservation and health departments across Fairfield County.
Currently initiatives: The Alliance is involved in two ongoing studies: a regional tick density and infection rate study now in its third year, plus a study analyzing the economic impact of the deer population in the state of Connecticut. More details of these two studies and how to take part in the tick study next year can be found on this site.
In early 2008 the Alliance asked Governor Rell and the state Department of Public Health to step in and help to promote statewide education of the public on the benefits of a balanced deer population and in particular to give the public access to the results of studies that show that sufficient deer reduction has worked to prevent Lyme disease. DPH responded by increasing the information on the role of deer population control on its Lyme prevention web site. We are asking all Police Departments in Fairfield County to keep accurate and uniform records of deer-vehicle accidents and deer roadkills in order to better assess the impact of the deer population on road safety and to follow the local deer population density in a low tech, inexpensive, objective way; we are in discussion with the DEP to help them in their goal to achieve more effective deer reduction through hunting; we are asking for more legislative and regulatory changes to achieve this same goal. We supported the companion Lyme Research and Prevention Bills and particularly encourage improved surveillance and accurate counting of Lyme cases as we try to reduce Lyme disease through deer reduction programs. The Alliance supports state funding of venison processing (which does not occur yet in CT) to help feed the needy while helping deer control efforts -see the Frequently Asked Questions for details.
The Alliance has embarked on a series of public forums with invited expert speakers from the region. Such an event was held on October 14th 2008 at Weston Public Library when Dr Emile DeVito from the New Jersey Conservation Foundation spoke on the threat to the forests of the northeast. The next Alliance Speaker meeting is planned for October 20th at 11am, details to be confirmed. Meetings are open to the public and volunteers are welcome to help with educational and awareness efforts. Speakers from the Alliance are happy to come to your community and talk about the problems created by deer overpopulation and solutions available. We also have a list of expert speakers in the New England Region who will come and talk to your town.
Other work of the Alliance will be publicized by issuing further public reports periodically.