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Residents voice their opinions on Fayetteville's deer management proposal

Tom Magnarelli
A public meeting on the deer management program proposal in the village of Fayetteville.

Residents of the village of Fayetteville in Onondaga County voiced their opinions at a public meeting on a proposed deer management program late last week. While some people questioned how the program’s success will be measured, most agreed that something needs to be done.

Jason Fridley, an associate professor of biology at Syracuse University, said the repercussions of deer overpopulation on forests are more immediate than climate change or invasive insects like the emerald ash borer.

“The state park loves to say how they have this old growth forest track; it’s among the nicest forests in central New York," Fridley said. "That’s only true if you’re looking up and you’re looking at these ancient trees. The forests we have at Green Lakes are essentially a botanical desert. It’s more or less Armageddon in our forests.”

Deer act like lawn mowers eating up the new trees, shrubs and wildflowers on the forest floor. That's just one example of the problems these animals have created. Fridley acknowledged that deer overpopulation is a man-made problem caused by forest fragmentation when trees are cut down leaving isolated patches of forests. But deer also carry ticks that spread Lyme disease, which Bob Twichell was diagnosed with five years ago.

“I believe that if you cut the population of deer down, you’re not going to be having as many ticks in the area,” Twichell said.

The village of Fayetteville’s deer committee outlined their proposal, which includes baiting deer to feeding stations and shooting them from tree stands using compound bows or crossbows. The goals are to reduce the deer and tick populations but some residents, such as Mario Mason, were concerned with how they would determine those numbers.

“I have a problem that the measure of success of this program is to reduce the deer population," Mason said. "We don’t know what the deer population is, correct?”

The Fayetteville deer committee acknowledged that’s a number they would like to find out before they implement a program to run from December to March.

A few people spoke out against killing the deer. One person recounted the trauma of watching a maimed deer suffer. The committee says no plan is final yet, as they review the feedback from the public.

Mark Olson, the mayor of Fayetteville, said he's been hearing complaints about deer from residents for years.

"It's a passionate subject on both sides, people are for and against," Olson said. "At the end of the day, we're public officials and we need to make decisions on what's best for the whole public."

Olson said if the proposal does pass, they will revaluate it after year one.

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.