When fall deer hunting season begins on September 15, Brookfield will join other communities to help control overabundant deer populations in Fairfield County by inviting state-certified hunters to evaluate properties for deer culling efforts. Over 35 bow hunters will be hunting in Brookfield this season.
According to a recent economic study, deer overpopulation costs Fairfield County residents up to $1,520 per household and $17 million per town annually. A significant component of this cost results from Lyme disease and tick extermination sprays. Ticks rely upon deer for their last bloodmeal before laying the eggs that distribute their population and tickborne illness. Examples in New England and Connecticut have proven that when deer densities are reduced to below 10 to 12 deer per square mile, incidences of Lyme disease are reduced significantly. The choice before us is clear: if we are willing to contribute our community's resources, we can stop this public health crisis.
In addition to Lyme disease, collisions between deer and vehicles present another unnecessary year-round hazard. On average, over 100 deer-related car accidents occur per year in Fairfield County at an estimated cost of $3,050 per collision according to State Farm Insurance Company.
The over-foraging of local ecology by deer causes damage of personal and environmental concern beyond Fairfield County. Although the most tangible effect of deer on our environment is the destruction of family gardens and foliage around the home, arguably the most concerning damage is deer overpopulation's impact on our woodlands. Deer overpopulation reduces the habitat for birds and causes damage to the shrub layer, increasing erosion and storm water run off while degrading water quality.
If our deer populations can be returned to the levels of 50 years ago all of these concerns would be minimized. Efforts to reduce wild deer populations with contraception, however, have failed. The only currently effective means of reduction is increasing planned hunting, including hunting by sportsmen who are willing volunteers.
Planned hunts on larger town tracts cannot alone control our massive deer population. Hunts on scattered single parcels of land tend to either be too local in their scope or simply encourage deer to move to other properties. For the same reason, fencing and garden sprays are insufficient: they merely move the deer problem elsewhere, where deer will continue to multiply and support large tick populations. A concerted community-wide effort is required to counter the regenerative capacity of deer herds.
Our opportunity to combat deer overpopulation begins on September 15. Details of the bow season (and shorter firearms season) are available in the 2010 Connecticut Hunting and Trapping Guide available online and at all town clerks offices. Importantly, before any hunting take place, a landowner needs to sign the hunter's "Landowner Consent Form," which the hunter must carry.
Landowners, however, do not have to navigate this process alone. The Connecticut Department of Environment Protection (DEP) is "ready and willing" to assist communities who want to take action to reduce deer populations. Under Public Act 03-192, the DEP is currently accepting plans from municipalities, homeowners associations and land holding organizations to reduce deer populations.
Through this program, the DEP can leverage its institutional resources to go beyond the capability of town-led hunts. With a special "deer herd reduction programs permit" for instances of significant deer-related damage, the DEP will allow out of season, nighttime humane deer removal to ensure effective deer reduction. Such programs have been proven to significantly reduce deer overpopulation and its attendant costs if enough community members participate.
Additionally, the deer harvest can contribute to the charitable resources of our local communities. With your financial support of processing costs, venison can be donated to local shelters to feed those in need, such as the CT Food Bank.
The Alliance encourages all towns to formally request professional help from the DEP in creating a town-wide plan that will reduce deer numbers and improve quality of life in just a few years. But for now, homeowners can protect their own properties and families by inviting a volunteer hunter to remove deer.
To find a licensed and experienced hunter, contact Brookfield's Fairfield County Municipal Deer Management Alliance member, Russell Cornelius at (203) 775-8010 for more information.
Some towns such as Brookfield, Darien, Ridgefield, Redding, Wilton and New Canaan currently facilitate matching homeowners with hunters. By law, hunters may not receive remuneration for their efforts. A guideline for interviewing and selecting a hunter can be found on the Alliance's website.
The Fairfield County Municipal Deer Management Alliance is a collaborative educational effort by 18 Fairfield County municipalities working towards a coordinated approach to reduce over abundant deer — all in the best interest of the common good.