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Deer management programs are reducing numbers but effects still need to be determined

David Stone

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is updating the public on its deer management programs. Deer programs used by towns and villages are seeing results but still need to track the lasting effects.

Any person or municipality that wants to shoot deer outside of the hunting season has to get permission from the DEC through a damage or nuisance permit. Several villages are already doing this to try to cut down on the risk of Lyme disease, which is spread by ticks carried by deer, and for other reasons. Those villages include Trumansburg, Hamilton and Fayetteville. Several more towns such as Onondaga, Owasco and DeWitt are also considering their own deer management programs.

Courtney LaMere, a biologist with the DEC, said deer population control does not always have to be done through a nuisance permit.

“We want to help the hunting community get in touch with those suburban communities and work together to match hunters with properties to control deer that way,” LaMere said. "We’re reaching out to hunters to ask for help organizing controlled hunts in those areas. It doesn’t always have to be a damage permit, it can be done through recreational hunting as well.”

The village of Fayetteville was planning on using volunteer archers to bait and cull deer, but ended up using sharpshooters hired through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. LaMere said in the future, that program can be combined with using local hunters to maintain deer population levels.

“We’ve seen it be effective in our region in reducing deer numbers, but they still need to manage the impact from deer," LaMere said. "We have some sign that [deer management programs] are being successful in reducing the negative impacts from deer but it will take more time to really have a good measure of those things. It won’t happen after the first year or even the second year sometimes.”

It can cost thousands of dollars, but sharpshooters can quickly accomplish what might take longer for volunteer hunters. Fayetteville’s program lasted six nights in March and netted 89 deer. That program did run into some problems. On several occasions members of the  public tried to discourage deer from using the bait stations, such as one resident making noise from a nearby property.

The USDA Wildlife Services recommended more private properties are used next time and offered to help the village track the data of reported damage from deer. Venison from the program was donated to a local food bank.

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.