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Experts, Police Weigh Options At County Center Deer Forum

Pound Ridge Police Chief Dave Ryan, second from left, details deer hunting in his town during a panel discussion. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
More than 100 people attended Thursday's deer management forum at Westchester County Center in White Plains. Photo Credit: Jon Craig

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Public officials and residents heard a wide range of strategies for deer management on Thursday during a conference at the Westchester County Center.

Options ranged from darts carrying contraceptives, as being tested in Hastings-on-Hudson, to bow hunters in county parks and in Pound Ridge, to sharpshooters hired by Vassar College in Poughkeepsie.

Teatown Lake Reservation tried sharpshooters in the winter of 2014, killing 11 deer, and archers this past fall, when 35 deer were killed on the reserve's 800 acres in Ossining.

Wildlife experts agreed it takes many years, even decades, to measure whether the "culling'' of deer herds helps restore a forest's undergrowth.

Pound Ridge Police Chief Dave Ryan, who has overseen bow hunting in his town for nine years, said his leading concern is safety. No one has been hurt, he said, and "we have pretty good support within the community."

Pound Ridge's deer hunting program started on 99 acres with 197 hunters, and now covers 1,600 acres using 29 hunters. "We have more success now,'' Ryan said. "We talk to every neighbor,'' and the town regulates hunters by issuing parking passes and photo IDs.

Hunters are required to hunt from treestands, so arrows don't end up

Ryan said there has to be "an end use" to the deer, so it's eaten and not just hunted recreationally. What isn't used for food is donated to a preserve for wolves in Lewisboro, he said. "It takes a village to solve the problem. The one thing we can't do is nothing."

Dan Aitchison, senior curator with the Westchester County Parks Department, said a 2008 study found the county's deer population was five to 10 times higher than area forests could support.

"One size does not fit all,'' said William Harding, executive director of the state Department's Watershed Council. "Everything does not work everywhere."

A Mamaroneck resident asked, "Are we being realistic? It's not Upstate New York. It's not even Pound Ridge. You can't hide your kid from a deer being taken down (in the suburbs.) I don't know if you're being realistic for communities like Mamaroneck or Rye."

"How can you say it's safe?'' another resident asked, when as many as one deer is left wounded by a deer hunter for every one killed.

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