Dewitt’s Deer Management Program is Reducing the Deer Population Dewitt's Deer Management Program

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.

Sam Gelfand: According to the town of Dewitt, in nature there a typically about 8 deer per square mile. In Dewitt, that number jumps to 85. Natalie Dascoulias explains the town’s program to reduce the deer population.
Natalie Dascoulias:53 deer were killed through the deer management program in Dewitt last year. According to the head of the deer management program, Chris Manchester, the town has chose the culling method over hunting which removes deer in large groups.
Chris Manchester: The intent is that if they 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.
Natalie Dascoulias:Other non-lethal methods such as birth control would’ve been costly and difficult.
Chris Manchester: If we try a contraception then we have to continuously administer the contraceptive to the animal and deer learn pretty quickly if you catch them the first time you may not catch them the second time.
Natalie Dascoulias:The town is only able to cull deer in certain areas. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation requires the town to follow certain rules.
Chris Manchester: Specific sites are chosen, and those sites are chosen based on a host of conditions that are present. 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.
Natalie Dascoulias:Manchester says the deer have learned how to adapt to human conditions. That adaptation is the reason for using the culling method.
Chris Manchester:Sites are chosen, the land owner gives permission, and then the sites are baited. What the intent is, is to get the deer out of people’s yards and out of areas that we can’t get a rifle into, and then a sharp shooter shoots the animal.
Natalie Dascoulias:Once the deer are killed, the venison is donated to the Food Bank of Central New York. Purchasing Manager of the food bank, Andrew Katzer, says the program fills a need.
Andrew Katzer: Proteins are always a challenge for people receiving emergency assistance so anytime you can get a good quality donated protein it’s very desirable.
Natalie Dascoulias: Meat is sent to the food bank and distributed to more than 250 partner programs.
Andrew Katzer: We have a system called choice where all our agencies can order whatever they want so if they decide to choose it, it goes to soup kitchens, pantries, emergency shelters, those types of things.
Natalie Dascoulias:Manchester said that when deer complaints began to spike two years ago, the town looked at all the problems deer can cause.
Chris Manchester: We began looking into the program because of residential complaints, but we began the program much more holistically looking at the environmental damage deer were causing, deer car accidents, Lyme disease.
Natalie Dascoulias: Manchester says a study conducted by SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry staff determined that the deer population was growing in Dewitt.
Chris Manchester: They went to areas in Dewitt and Manlius and counted the deer and they were able to determine through years of work that the deer populations were growing by thirty percent
Natalie Dascoulias: Manchester explains that the deer population is high in areas where predators are not killing deer.
Chris Manchester: We don’t have predators in the landscape other than really cars.
Natalie Dascoulias: Although deer levels are high in Dewitt, mechanic Larry Zapata says that he doesn’t see that many deer related accidents.
Larry Zapata: Majority of deer accidents are caused between September and December. They’re not moving that much during the summer so you don’t see that many impacts.
Natalie Dascoulias: He says the damage deer do to cars is not the most severe.
Larry Zapata: Deer have soft bodies, so they do soft impacts on cars so usually it’s cracking paint, damaging plastic parts, stuff of that nature.
Natalie Dascoulias: Manchester says that as the town saw the deer population rise, they also noticed an increase in coyotes.
Chris Manchester: That makes sense because as we have a pray species and the populations are rising the ecosystem will try to balance and we will also have growth in the predator species.
Natalie Dascoulias: With N-C-C News, I’m Natalie Dascoulias.

Reported by

Natalie Dascoulias

Natalie is a sophomore Broadcast and Digital Journalism major at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. She has a minor in Geography and is from Rochester, New York.

Other stories by Natalie Dascoulias

Related Articles