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Sharpshooters killed 92 deer in Syracuse last winter, but they're still a problem in the city

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Sharpshooters with the U.S. Department of Agriculture shot and killed 92 deer last winter in the third year of the city of Syracuse’s Deer Management program. Despite some success, there are still areas in the city where deer are running rampant.

Syracuse resident Ken Garno told Syracuse Common Councilors this week that he has recently seen as many as 13 deer at one time on his property on the city’s eastside. Garno is a member of a citizens advisory group that's helped the Walsh administration figure out how to deal with an exploding deer population that’s created public health, safety and ecosystem challenges.

Even though the deer culling program, undertaken in with the cooperation of the USDA has removed 316 deer from the city since 2019, they are still causing issues in neighborhoods like the city’s eastside. Common Councilor Joe Driscoll said part of the problem is the city can’t get in certain areas to remove the deer.

“It’s densely populated, there’s a lot of streets, lots of residents around and these deer,” said Driscoll. “So even though we get 92 this year, some of those areas, will see an increase or no effect, unless we can get more sites into some of those harder to hit areas."

What’s stopping them from going into those areas are state rules that limit where culling can take place. For example, it would have to be set back 500 feet from a street. Greg Loh, chief policy officer for the Walsh administration, said there may be help on the way from some state legislation that would create a pilot program to reduce those parameters.

"It effectively cuts in half the set back area that’s required, and reduce the difficulty in finding suitable properties,” said Loh. “There are properties we can accommodate with 250 feet more easily with fewer adjoining property owners to provide permission, and it would meet the state’s criteria under this Syracuse pilot."

The city’s deer culling program resulted in nearly 2,400 pounds of venison from the deer killed last winter that has been given to local food banks.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.