“No matter what decisions are made, it’s highly unlikely that everyone in the community will agree with them, but everyone should be able to agree that there was a valid process in reaching those decisions.”
– Sue Booth-Binczik, NYS DEC Wildlife Biologist
JAMESTOWN – The Jamestown City Council learned more about the causes of the area’s growing deer population and what can be done to try and reduce it during a presentation Monday night during a council work session.
Approximately 15 residents, along with city council members and other city officials, listened to the hour-long presentation by Sue Booth-Binczik, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation in Albany.
Booth-Binczik said there is no simple solution to reducing the number of deer in an urban area, adding that it’s important to first recognize and identify the specifics of the problem – such as property damage or car-vehicle accidents. She said from there, a community must identify an objective, and then identify and select options.
“Selecting which action a community is going to take is usually the most difficult, most time-consuming, and potentially controversial aspect of the process because people have widely differing opinions about deer and priorities about how deer should be treated. So this decision process can cause a lot of conflict and many communities just get bogged down with it,” Booth-Binczik said. “No matter what decisions are made, it’s highly unlikely that everyone in the community will agree with them, but everyone should be able to agree that there was a valid process in reaching those decisions and that those decisions are supported by the majority of the community.”
Among the management options to consider is to remove food sources for deer, as well as putting up fencing, using scare devices, and reducing speed limits to improve safety for motorists. There’s also the option of hunting, which can be done a number of ways including allowing bow hunting in the city during regular hunting season.
“The basic way to encourage hunting and to facilitate population reduction through hunting is to give hunters property access in areas where the deer are. So from a city perspective, one way to increase access is to remove the ordinance [that bans hunting within city limits]. Another way might be, as a landowner, the city could open up city parks to hunting,” Booth-Binczik said, adding that individual property owners would also want to work together to permit hunting in some privately owned land within the city. “Hunting is always under the prevue of the landowners, who have control over their properties, so the city could also encourage residents, as property owners, to give hunters access to their lands.”
Other options include instituting a culling program, which involves various steps such as baiting, night time hunting, and even capture and killing the animals.
Booth-Binczik said once options are selected, the community can work to implement the actions, and then evaluate the effectiveness. In order for the process to be effective, she said outreach and community engagement is important. She also encouraged the city to partner with its neighboring municipalities in coordinating a deer management plan in order to increase its effectiveness.
Booth-Binczik also explained the causes of deer population growth, saying it’s primarily due to a reduction in predators over the years, combined with reduced hunting and encroachment into urban areas, which provide additional safety and resources for the deer. As a result, Booth-Binczik said deer populations can double as quickly as every 2 years. She also said the vehicle-deer accidents is the number one cause of death of deer in New York State, with 70,000 accidents reported on an annual basis.
Booth-Binczik also said that due to the large number of deer in the state, it’s had an ecological impact on other animals and plant life because deer will destroy forest habitat that is needed for other wildlife to thrive. She said deer can also result in the loss of forests over an extended period of time because they don’t allow them to regenerate.
The residents on hand who spoke during the meeting said the deer have grown to become a larger problem during the past five years and urged to city to implement a management strategy.
“You see dozens of deer at certain times just walking between houses. The area up by English Street, it’s generally that area and around the Allen Park area, it’s overrun, and also up by Bush School,” said city resident Dana Williams, who recently wrote a letter to the editor in the Post-Journal that prompted the discussion. “It’s not healthy either. I just don’t want to wait until there’s somebody getting ill. Something’s going to happen like that and once that happens, then you’re going to have a lot of people saying we should’ve done something.”
City council president Marie Carrubba said the city will work on collecting additional information and looking into the matter and will update the community on how it will proceed in the coming weeks.
According to the DEC, currently in Western New York, there are five communities – including N. Tonawanda, Lackawana, and Amherst – that have a deer management hunting program in place.
For additional information on deer management, Booth-Binczik recommended the following websites:
- Cornell University Community Deer Management Resource
- DEC pages on deer overabundance and community deer management
- Impacts of deer on forests and wildlife