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Local biologist comments on area deer harvest increase

OH DEER ­­— White-tailed deer stand steps away from a home near Sprague Brook Park in Glenwood. Photo by Justin Graham.
COLDEN — Many families living near Sprague Brook Park, located south of Colden, often see a high population of deer, in and around their yards, year-round.

Tim Spierto, a local biologist with the New York State Department of Conservation, Region 9, said, “The deer harvest shows a small, but definite increase, from last year. Overall, hunters had killed more deer, since the previous year.”

Region 9 is the largest DEC unit in New York state, inclusive of the Springville area and its surrounding Western New York municipalities. Spierto said that the deer population is “high enough for a 20 percent reduction, by members of the task force.”

But, according to the DEC, Western New York’s deer population has always been high.

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An article published in The New York Times on Aug. 26, 1928 said that “white-tailed deer had eaten so much of the ground-level vegetation in [New York] state’s forests, that hillsides, which were once masses of rich green, are now gray and barren.”

From 1900 – 1911, the Adirondack and Catskills regions adopted their first plan of attack against overpopulation, with the stipulation that “deer of either sex may be hunted, except spotted fawns,” according to the New York State DEC’s, deer management plan.

The DEC adopted its deer management plan to control white-tailed deer in New York in 1956.

How much vegetation is the state deer populace eating? According to the DEC, 10 deer per square mile are all that a “healthy forest” can support. In some local, rural areas, the animal population has reached 40 – 50, with some estimates as high as 100, in a single square mile. The DEC added that diminished ground vegetation makes finding food more difficult, for birds and other herbivores.

Deer numbers are also reduced, by vehicle collisions. While the DEC noted automobile incidents as methods of deer number reducers, those living in homes near Sprague Brook Park, where guidelines specify that no deer may be taken, face a more dense deer population.

Glenwood’s Sprague Brook Park is often dotted with herds of five or more deer, grazing 10 feet away from residents living near the park.

Signs throughout the WNY area ask the general population to avoid feeding deer. According to Spierto, doing so will increase the size of deer herds, making the animals dependent on people for their food supply. This will could lead to “vegetation decrease, starvation and wasting disease,” which is a neurological effect among deer. Traffic accidents could then increase, as the size of herds grow.

According to the DEC, potential solutions include lengthening the hunting season or expand hunting restriction areas. Plans to control deer have been tossed around, for many years.

For more information about the local chapter of the NYS DEC and its ongoing plans for deer management, visit www.dec.ny.gov/about/619.html.
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