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Deer management proposal on Syracuse's east side raises concerns from residents

Tom Magnarelli
Around 200 residents came out to a deer task force meeting at Nottingham High School on Tuesday night.

Residents on both sides of the issue spoke out at another public hearing on managing deer and ticks in central New York on Tuesday night. Funding will soon be available for neighborhoods to address the problem.

One focus at the meeting on Syracuse’s east side was warning the public about the dangers of Lyme disease. Ticks have spread the disease across upstate New York and deer carry ticks. There were 98 cases of Lyme disease in central New York in 2013 according to the New York State Department of Health. More than 600 deer were found on the east side in a 15-square mile area.

Some residents asked why deer management and Lyme disease are not being treated as a public health issue.

Jan Markarian, who lives in the Syracuse University area, suggested addressing the problem similar to rabies prevention.   

“I don’t know why we are not pushing the New York State Legislature to be asking for the money that all the communities need because it’s a statewide issue," Markarian said. "I think just our municipalities alone cannot do it and it encourages people to tackle this problem on the cheap.”

Onondaga County Chairman Ryan McMahon, told the public that the county legislature passed a budget last week that includes $100,000 that neighborhoods can apply for to help fund deer and tick management programs.

One controversial program to reduce deer populations is bait and cull, which has bow hunters kill the deer. Some attendees were upset because sometimes a deer can get shot, run off, and suffer a long death.

Sandra Porter is an animal advocate that has been studying the deer population on a deer task force for years. She said she realizes that some lethal program may need to be used.  

“I think that there are areas that you cannot do it by non-lethal alone," Porter said. "However, you can bring in humane, non-lethal as soon as possible, so let's say you reduce the population to about where you want it to be, you can maintain it to that point with surgical sterilization.”  

Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News
Common Councilor Nader Maroun leads the discussion on deer and tick management programs.

Syracuse Common Councilor Nader Maroun, who has been on the eastside deer committee, said the bait and cull approach needs to be looked at.

“We’ve got to do something; we can no longer sit back and not take some positive action," Maroun said. "Look at those communities where they’re waited and the deer population has grown. But more importantly please focus on the Lyme disease. It’s really more of a community health issue.”

Professional bow hunters in the audience said bow hunting is humane if done properly and should kill the deer in about 60 seconds.

A task force is considering all options including non-lethal methods such as the surgical sterilization of deer.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.