Update from Municipal Health Director, CT

December 23, 2015

…..Here in the Nutmeg state, our deer population got out of control, particularly in Fairfield County (next to NYC). We have over 2K auto/deer collisions a year statewide. As a municipal health director, I receive approximately 400 Lyme disease case notifications per year; in a population numbering 20K. This is greater than any other reportable communicable disease. My knees and wrists know all too well the aftermath of Lyme, having contracted it twice. Most of us now carry a tick removal tool on our key chains. Needless to say, we have utter disdain for the Eastern whitetailed deer, the whitefooted mouse and the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis).

Safety and public health issues aside, probably the most devastating is the destruction to the level of browse of woodland undergrowth and the damage to Eastern Connecticut’s agriculture, particularly orchards and nursery stock. The woodland destruction is so extensive that there are no oak, ash, cedar or hickory saplings. The maple/oak woods behind our home is bare of any young trees; thereby allowing the unrestricted growth of brambles … several varieties, each worse than the other. Two years ago, the (hypothesized) insult to the forest ecology from deer overpopulation resulted in no acorns being produced. The deer population density and lack of food resulted in the re-absorption of deer fetuses and numerous starvation deaths. We also saw the introduction of wasting disease. While you may think that the stress on the deer population is a good thing, we also see a marked reduction in coyote, fox, wild turkey, woodland songbirds and predators’ morsels such as white-footed mice and voles. There is no stability. We go from one extreme to the other.

When I was the biological safety officer on Plum Island, we had to dispatch deer because of the threat of disease transmission, particularly foot and mouth disease. However, the more deer that were destroyed, the more swam from the Hamptons to Gardner’s Island to Plum. We spent about $40K annually (out of my budget) on APHIS hunters. I too managed to dispatch a few with my M1 carbine when I was duty officer and had to spend the night on the island. In short, we are harmed more by deer overpopulation than by ISIS.

The Deer Dilemma

I came across this powerpoint presentation from Bloomington, IN while researching deer density issues.
Very well done and talks about indicator species and well as growth of the deer population over time.

The Deer Dilemma
• A local or temporary problem? No
• A minor problem? No
• Simple impacts? No

May be causing major and irreversible ecological effects


New Type of Deterrent?

From a friend following us from Pennsylvania

Introducing “Spot” the Robo-Dog, Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis, April 11, 2015

Robo-Dog as Animal Deterrent

We have a 1 acre property with huge gardens. Our property is close to a forest preserve. Deer are extremely problematic. They eat nearly everything unless I take other measures.

One bite off the top of a lily and it will not flower in the current year. Repeat bites and it will not survive at all.

I believe a robo-dog like spot roaming the property from dusk to dawn would keep deer and other animals away.

Meanwhile for all you gardeners with a deer problem, I suggest “Mish’s Brew”.

“Non-fail” stinky brew recipe in the full article.

From the newly published Cornell Study

So we know what the options mean, I have copied the Deer Manager’s Toolbox from the Cornell Study here.

A Deer Manager’s Toolbox – Lethal Control


Research conducted on the capture and translocation of deer suggests that animals are stressed during the process, and experience high mortality after release, which is why we choose to place this method in with other lethal controls. Translocation is cost prohibitive, may increase the spread of disease, and few places would accept these animals. [Prohibited in Michigan.]

Predator Reintroduction

Deer predators such as wolves and mountain lions were extirpated over much of their range, and recent work has shown that coyote predation does not control overabundant deer populations, with the exception of very special circumstances. At this time, wildlife management agencies are unlikely to advocate for release of
mountain lions or wolves in our region due to biological constraints in suburban landscapes, and stakeholder concerns over resource use and safety. It is also questionable whether large predators would have the ability to control abundant deer populations given the ratio of predator to prey. In Wisconsin’s remaining wolf range, for example, there are likely more than 1,000 deer for every wolf, a clear indication that wolves by themselves, while certainly feeding on deer, will not be able to control or reduce deer numbers sufficiently.

Regulated Hunting

This is often the first method proposed as a solution for deer problems, and is advocated by both state wildlife management agencies and hunters. Successful deer reduction via hunting depends on a community’s established objectives. For example, hunting, where permitted, may be useful in reducing some level of DVCs, or when implemented before deer populations become too large. This method, along with sterilization, comprised the core of Cornell’s initial deer management approach. Our experiences with regulated hunting at Cornell, along with many other communities in the U.S., suggest difficulty in reducing deer abundance to a level that achieves ecological goals.

Capture and Euthanize

Methods used to capture and euthanize deer include drop nets, Clover traps, or darting to capture deer, followed by penetrating captive bolt, exsanguination, firearms, or chemical euthanization. In most instances, these methods will require contracting with professionals from USDA/APHIS/Wildlife Services, law enforcement, or private contractors. Although we have successfully used Clover traps and penetrating captive bolt, a technique approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the American Veterinary Medical Association and by Cornell’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, to euthanize deer in dense suburban areas, staff time and expense were concerns for its continued use.

Bait and Shoot

This is the only method we are aware of that has demonstrated quick reductions in suburban deer populations. While bait and shoot has clearly reduced deer numbers and DVCs in numerous suburban communities, we are not able to assess whether deer reductions have also resulted in reductions in ecological impacts. We are pursuing this work on Cornell lands, but we cannot provide much evidence at this time. Bait and shoot methods may be divided into either volunteer contributions, such as in our DDP efforts at Cornell, or contractual services by professionals. In both instances, participants bait deer into locations where discharge of bows, crossbows, or firearms is safe; and deer are shot at close range. This method is most effective on naïve deer herds unfamiliar with hunting. Although hunted deer tend to be much more cautious, bait-and-shoot methods can still lead to population reductions. Using contractual services is expensive, but time spent afield is greatly reduced, and costs are generally much less than fertility control. Bait-and-shoot techniques are clearly the most likely to reduce deer populations to the lowest levels possible, given all of today’s options.

Regulated Commercial Hunting

Under current laws and regulations, this method is not legal in most states. This proposed method may include contracting deer management out to approved individuals or companies, or expanding the ability of recreational hunters to sell meat or other deer parts. Contractors or individuals would be able to sell venison at market prices to cover their time and costs. Numerous and notable wildlife professionals in the U.S. support and continue to debate this method. North American wildlife management agencies have not moved forward with the idea of bringing back commercial hunting, and the sale of wild-caught venison is prohibited in most states. Moreover, hunters who consider it a threat to their recreational pursuits vehemently oppose commercial hunting. Ironically, venison sold in U.S. stores is either farm-raised or imported from New Zealand, where white-tailed deer were introduced and have become an invasive pest species, and where deer are
commercially hunted. [Prohibited in Michigan.]

A Deer Manager’s Toolbox – Nonlethal Control

Change Ornamental Planting Regimes

The recommendations to use non-palatable plantings often contain non-native, sometimes invasive species, and thus not ecologically-acceptable options. Furthermore, widely planting just a few reliably deer-resistant plants will greatly reduce local biodiversity with unacceptable consequences for native insects and birds that require native species as food and shelter.

Repellents (Chemical and Physical)

Repellents in various forms (chemical or nonchemical, such as scare devices in gardens or along roadways) may have short-term effects, if at all, but they are not a permanent solution, despite widespread claims.


Although some deer can clear an 8-foot-high fence, depending on terrain, this minimum height can be effective for keeping deer out of high-value areas permanently, but it excludes other wildlife, has high initial costs, and pushes deer into adjacent unfenced areas. Fences will remain an essential option to guard roads, high-value ornamental plantings, or threatened populations of native species. However, they have no effect on overall deer abundance in a community.

Fertility Control

At present, sterilization can only be performed on deer in New York State as part of approved scientific studies and requires a DEC License to Collect and Possess (LCP) research animals. In other states, you should contact your state wildlife agency to determine applicable laws and regulations. Such regulations change frequently, and you need to keep up to date. Until further data are gathered and analyzed, this technique continues to be experimental, and is not an approved method routinely available to managers. See study for a more in-depth treatment of fertility control.

Attempting to manage a suburban deer herd using fertility control alone will not likely be successful in areas with high deer densities. Deer are long-lived (>12 years), and without mortality, sterilized female deer will continue ecological and social impacts unabated, except for the gradual attrition of deer killed by vehicles. Modeling has shown that removing a female deer has two to three times the impact on population growth than sterilizing a female deer. Managing a deer herd via vehicle collisions is both inhumane and costly for community residents.


Oh, Deer! Ann Arbor’s Herd Problem

Oh, Deer! Ann Arbor’s Herd Problem

In a blog post from Local in Ann Arbor, there is as good synopsis of some of the conflicting views of deer.

“In the end, the question of what to do about Ann Arbor’s excess deer is as much about values as about science.”

Go to http://localinannarbor.com/2014/12/03/oh-deer-ann-arbors-herd-problem/ to read more.

How Wolves change Rivers– watch this video

Great video, possibly giving too much credit to the wolves.

In one article it is refuted– a study showed that we had gone too long before removing some of the elk population. “After humans exterminated wolves nearly a century ago, elk grew so abundant that they all but eliminated willow shrubs. Without willows to eat, beavers declined. Without beaver dams, fast-flowing streams cut deeper into the terrain. The water table dropped below the reach of willow roots. Now it’s too late for even high levels of wolf predation to restore the willows.” Is the Wolf a Real American Hero?, Arthur Middleton, New York Times, March 9, 2014

A solution!

From the Manistique Pioneer Tribune of last Thursday, Letter to the Editor. Fayette is on the Garden Peninsula where wolves have sometimes been a problem for farmers.

Dear Editor,

I think transplant wolves into new areas. Instead of having them killed, they should be trapped and transplanted into new areas.

The best places are logically where overpopulations of deer are a problem. My two suggested areas are Meridian Township next to Lansing and Kensington Metro Park near Detroit.

This would help the deer problem in these areas and give many more people the joy of seeing these magnificent creatures up close. This always brings a “not in my backyard” response.

Seems like you just can’t please some people.