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Many upstate communities are taking action against rising deer populations

David Stone

Many central New York communities are considering deer management programs to curb the rising deer population. A bait-and-cull approach is catching on but some animal rights activists are against it.

Last year, the village of Trumansburg in the Finger Lakes started a deer management program which baits deer with corn so archers can shoot and kill the deer. The meat is then donated to local food banks. The village consulted with Cornell University and got permission from the state Department of Environmental Conservation first and is hoping to continue the program again this year.

Marty Petrovic, the mayor of Trumansburg, and said 88 deer were killed in the program last year.

“With all the issues related to deer, whether it was damage to plants, whether it was Lyme disease, whether it was car or deer accidents, our residents were overwhelmingly in favor of us trying to do something,” Petrovic said.

Petrovic said residents did see their plants and shrubs come back and fewer deer sightings were reported. But residents have continued to contract Lyme disease, including one of the village board members. Petrovic has been contacted by other villages that want to adopt this same model including Hamilton, Avon, Fayetteville and Manlius. Individual neighborhoods on the Westside and Eastside of Syracuse are working on a similar policy for this fall, as is Onondaga County.

But Petrovic has also been contacted by PETA who want him to stop the program. Kristin DeJournett is a cruelty case work manager for PETA based in Norfolk, Virginia.

“Bow hunting is one of the cruelest forms of hunting,” DeJournett said.

She said keeping deer away with common sense repellant and targeting their food supply will do the trick in the long run.

“Folks need to cut back edible plants and plant vegetation that has a natural resistance to local deer, meaning native plants," DeJournett said. "Playing radios, erecting scarecrows and fencing and then putting out bars of soap, pepper spray and even human hair will keep deer out of unwanted areas."

DeJournett said lethal methods do not work because when deer are killed, more move into the area because the vegetation is still available. They then breed and the cycle continues.

Angry letters from animal rights activists have not stopped Mark Olson, the mayor of the village of Fayetteville, to stop going through the process to institute the bait and cull program in Fayetteville this fall.

"It's the ticks and it's the accidents and it's the damage that it's doing to the quality of life of our residents," Olson said. "I know there's people that are on each side but we're really looking at it from a public safety standpoint. I've had a mother come up to me and say her son's gotten Lyme disease twice now. He's thirteen years old and he's had it two times. To me, that needs to be answered. Any other public health threat, we deal with."

Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon said they are looking at many different options for a countywide deer management plan that communities could opt in or opt out of. McMahon said the county will help neighborhoods in Syracuse obtain permission from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to move forward with their bait and cull programs while a countywide strategy is still being developed.

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.