Deer overpopulation neglects the north
By Adam Szot.
While white-tailed deer populations have, over the past few decades, become unmanageably large and hazardous to New York's farms and roadways, they are still a pleasant sight for many northern tourists.
Richard Decosse, who runs Dick's Gun City and Music Oasis in Churubusco, claims that outdoor enthusiasts occasionally stop at his store, asking directions for popular deer grazing sites."You'd be surprised, but some people really like to see deer," he says.
A hunter of 30 years, Decosse claims that deer populations in his area have actually dropped off recently.
"Although there was a general increase in years before, I have actually noticed a decline this year," he says, asserting that this is a observation shared by other local hunters.
According to Bob Inslerman, the species manager of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, white-tailed deer tend to overpopulate the western and southern counties of the state, in lieu of the north. He maintains that white-tailed deer prefer the smaller woodlots and brush-lands to the Adirondack's thick forests and rugged mountains.
"Think of the deer population as a donut, with the High Peaks as the hole," he explains. "The further you get from the hole, the more condensed the deer populations are."
According to a poll taken from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, more than 8,500 deer to vehicle collisions were reported in 2001, with the highest hit concentrations appearing within the counties of St. Lawrence, Oneida and Erie (Region 6).
Automobile/Deer Collisions(2001): Top ten counties in New York
*Map and info courtesy of NYSDEC
State of Emergency
In the wake of the ecological imbalance brought on by deer overpopulation, the department has been striving to alleviate what has become a statewide environmental concern over the past 10 years.
Despite myriad efforts to humanely stymie the growth of these herds, via repellants and fencing, exterminating female deer from overpopulated areas has proved the most effective
By issuing Nuisance Deer Permits and Deer Management Assistance Permits, the NYSDEC is currently allowing for deer-harrowed landowners to personally exterminate white-tailed deer from their property, provided they show sufficient evidence and urgency to do so.
Ed Reed is a deer biologist who distributes these permits throughout Region 5 from the NYSDEC headquarters in Raybrook, near Lake Placid. He explains that nuisance deer permits are given out to landowners seeking to remove deer from their property during the hunting off-season - the summer. Deer management permits, or DMAPS, on the other hand, are distributed during the normal hunting season.
While Reed still issues both types of deer removal permits, he claims that private landowners have favored the newer DMAP in recent years.
"They (private landowners) find that, instead of doing it themselves (killing deer), they can get hunters to do it for them during the season," Reed says. "And, they know that somebody is using the meat."
Although Reed distributes these permits throughout Region 5, Reed claims that the majority of them are administered in only two counties: Washington and Saratoga. According to Reed, Franklin, Clinton, Hamilton, Essex, Warren and Fulton counties do not often report deer-related problems.
Hunters - a dying breed.
According to Inslerman, the decline in hunting activity in recent years has played a significant role in the increasing deer populations.
"I think, generally speaking, we've become a very busy society, and more of a suburban and urban society, specifically," says Inslerman. "There is tremendous competition for a person's time, and with so many things to do, certain forms of recreational activity (like hunting) lose participation."
Inslerman also notes that people are moving away from rural areas and into urban and suburban environments. According to Inslerman, these urban/suburban migrations have diminished the connection between people and the great outdoors.
"Over several generations, you lose that direct connection with the outdoor environment," he says. "I think hunting, in particular, has become something people aren't familiar with, have no feeling for, or have no understanding of."
Whether or not outdoor apathy is a growing trend in the United States, hunters and conservationists nationwide are continuing to administer solutions to the problem that deer overpopulation poses.