According to the Town of Dewitt, the “natural” levels for deer are generally accepted to be approximately 8.5 per square mile, but in some areas of Dewitt there are approximately 85 deer per square mile.
Last year a total of 53 deer were killed through the town’s deer management program. Head of the Deer Management Program, Chris Manchester, says that the town chose the culling method, which removes deer in large numbers, over hunting, because it is more efficient.
“The intent is that if we can get the animal to the bait pile, usually deer come in groups so they can take 12 or 13 at a time vs a hunter that’s probably going to get one drag the carcass out and come back at a later time to hunt some more,” says Manchester.
Manchester says the intent is to go to areas where they can get a rifle. However, The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation requires the town to meet certain criteria according to Manchester.
“We have to meet setbacks, so bait piles have to be 300 feet off of a road and we have to be 500 feet away from an occupied dwelling without permission,” she says.
Meat from the deer killed in the program is donated to the Food Bank of Central New York. The carcass is brought to a processor where they process up the deer and send the meat to the food bank which then distributes it to partner programs. Purchasing manager of the food bank, Andrew Katzer, says that the program has been very well received.
“Proteins are always a challenge for people receiving emergency assistance, so anytime you can get a good quality donated protein like venison, it’s very desirable,” he says.
Manchester says the town started looking into the program after people in the community started to bring their complaints about deer to the town. One of the issues they were seeing was deer related car accidents.
Although the deer levels are high in Dewitt, Mechanic Larry Zapata says that he doesn’t see that many accidents.
“A majority of deer accidents are caused between September and December. During the summer you don’t see deer,” he says.
He says that car accidents caused by deer don’t do the most detrimental damage.
“Deer have soft bodies, so they do soft impacts on cars so usually its cracking paint, damaging plastic parts, stuff of that nature,” he says.
Manchester says that many people began to notice that deer were causing problems in their yards.
“Most people are done with the deer, they can’t grow gardens, they can’t grow trees because of the buck rubs and the scrapes. They don’t feel they can use their yards because of the waste that has been left behind,” says Manchester.
She says that the town has noticed an increase in coyotes since starting the program.
“We are beginning to receive more complaints about coyotes and that makes sense because as we have a pray species and the populations are rising the ecosystem will try to balance,” says Manchester.
Though the town has noticed this increase in coyotes, she says the Department of Environmental Conservation believes bear will be the next big urban problem in Upstate New York because bears are beginning to expand their ranges.