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Massive Hunt Won't Solve The Deer Problem



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Massive Hunt Won’t Solve The Deer Problem

To the Editor:

I was dismayed to see The Bee’s August 26 suggestion that the town consider widespread deer hunting in an effort to end Lyme disease. Mass deer hunting in Newtown is a poorly conceived idea offering little or no prospect of solving the Lyme disease problem, but guaranteeing a host of additional problems at a terrible cost.

First, a simple look at the numbers shows that deer hunting is a poor candidate to solve the problem. The Bee quotes Dr Georgina Scholl as stating that eliminating deer ticks using a deer-kill strategy would require culling the deer population from its current estimated level of 60–100 per square mile to eight per square mile. Thus, to work, the Scholl proposal requires the rapid killing of roughly 4,000 deer in Newtown’s 52 square miles alone; given the ease with which deer migrate, all neighboring towns, if not most of New England and the Northeast, would have to kill at a similar rate. Statistics from the Connecticut DEP indicate that in 2000, about 575 deer were killed across Fairfield County (an area encompassing 626 square miles), and that, in the busiest deer hunting season in Connecticut history, 13,740 deer were killed in the entire state (5,544 square miles), presumably mostly in less-populated areas much more conducive to hunting than Newtown. Thus, deer kills would have to increase roughly a hundredfold for the Scholl proposal to have even a theoretical chance of success. Moreover, because deer can double in population in two years according to Dr Scholl, this massive deer kill would have to take place in a very short period of time.

We all know that Newtown grows more populous every day. Where would this “deericide” take place? In our backyards? In the parks and forests where we currently walk and play? Does Newtown really want to turn our beloved woods and land preserves into dangerous killing fields, particularly for an enterprise offering such dubious odds of success?  

Alternative measures can be utilized to limit deer population in a less risky, more humane manner offering a better hope of success. Dr Uma Ramakrishnan of Juniata College in Pennsylvania, formerly of the Connecticut Department of Forestry and Horticulture, has advocated the use of innovative nonlethal deer control methods to reduce Lyme disease. Such nonlethal approaches have their own uncertainties, but are no less speculative a solution than mass hunting, and are far more consistent with Newtown’s humane, residential character.

A decision to kill thousands of innocent animals should not be taken lightly. My wife and I have both suffered from bouts of Lyme disease, and recognize that it is a significant problem, but to respond through a knee-jerk war on deer will exact a terrible toll on the people and animals of Newtown, while in the end serving no one except perhaps a few hunters. Newtown should reject Dr Scholl’s proposal.

Mark Alexander

69 Aunt Park Lane, Newtown                                  August 30, 2005

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