Deer Wars in Rye – Have We Reached a Truce?

Back in 2012 the local media was filled with stories about Rye’s problems with deer.  Many homeowners who had originally enjoyed the occasional sighting of a deer or two in their neighborhoods were now out for blood. 

Published July 2, 2014 6:07 PM
4 min read

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deer-thBack in 2012 the local media was filled with stories about Rye’s problems with deer.  Many homeowners who had originally enjoyed the occasional sighting of a deer or two in their neighborhoods were now out for blood. 

 

deerBy Bill Lawyer    

Back in 2012 the local media was filled with stories about Rye’s problems with deer.  Many homeowners who had originally enjoyed the occasional sighting of a deer or two in their neighborhoods were now out for blood.  

Deer were stalking nearly all of Rye’s neighborhoods – feeding on trees, shrubs, and flowers of nearly all shapes and forms.  Deer repellants, fences, and intruder lights were being used to stop the nighttime marauders.  

But the deer seemed impervious to all efforts to drive them away. If anything, their neighborhood patrols became more frequent and widespread.  Deer were seen ambling along the streets, even in the daylight.

They were observed on the grounds of schools, churches, parks, and office grounds and seemed to be working out of home bases at the City’s nature centers, preserves, and cemetery.

On another front, deer collisions with cars and trucks were becoming an increasingly frequent event. This happened particularly at night on higher-speed roads like Playland Parkway and Boston Post Road.

In March of last year the City Council invited John Baker, Director of Conservation for the County, to speak on the damage the deer population is doing to Westchester forests. Baker, who oversees the Adaptive Deer Management Program (ADAP) for the County, estimated that there are 60 to 65 deer per square mile in communities such as Rye.

The program employs private bow hunters who are licensed by ADAP. Applicants must pass rigorous tests related to training, equipment, and marksmanship, as well as have a proven track record of following the County rules on behavior on County lands. Deer are shot from tree stands; the hunters field dress and remove the deer.

Councilmembers expressed interest in the program and the possibility of implementing it at sites such as the Marshland’s Conversancy and the land surrounding the Jay Heritage Center (both County property).

When word got out about implementing the ADAP program in Rye, a number of residents spoke out against it. Some were opposed to killing wildlife; others stressed the practical issues of tracking wounded deer and the risk of injury to people in the relatively highly dense population of Rye.

So, in April 2013 the City Council decided not to pursue bow hunting or even a “sharpshooter” program in Rye. Instead, they proposed to carry out further research on the extent of the deer population and alternative means of controlling it.  

The following month, then Councilwoman Catherine Parker contacted County Legislator Judy Myers about funding.  Discussions were held with County Parks Deputy Commissioner Peter Tartaglia and Brad Goldberg, the head of the Animal Welfare Foundation, about a proposal to determine the efficacy of using “immune-contraceptive” chemicals to decrease the numbers of deer being born.  

As summer and fall came and went, however, nothing more was done on the City or County level. During that time the Rye police counted 14 collisions between cars and deer, as well as 12 deer found impaled on fences or injured in other ways.  

The winter of 2014 was one of the worst on record in Rye, with record low temperatures and over 50 inches of snow. One might think that this would have an impact on Rye’s deer population.

Recent conversations with Scott Williamson at Marshlands and Taro Ietaka at the Rye Nature Center, however, indicate that the populations are about the same as in previous years.

The County did put up additional “Caution: Deer Crossing” signs along Playland Parkway.

The Nature Center instituted a “deer exclusion” project in 2011. It fences off a section of their property to keep deer out.

Taking another approach, Rye’s garden clubs and the Bird Homestead organization have been actively promoting the use of deer-resistant plants.   

Last September, Baker and other park staff reported to the County that the programs in northern Westchester seem to be working and that a pilot immune-contraception program is in process in Hastings-On-Hudson. No mention was made regarding Rye.  

This May, Catherine Parker, who is now a County Legislator and Chair of the Energy and Environment Committee, asked Baker to update the committee regarding the County’s project. According to Parker, nothing had been done by the County in Rye.  

Parker says that if the City of Rye wants to move forward, they would have to provide the funds for a collaring program to enable researchers to track the deer.  

Meanwhile, to help with the information process, Rye residents should report any deer-related problems to the RPD.

 

 

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