Wednesday, July 25, 2007

NEW JERSEY NEWS: Humane Society Pushes Non-Lethal Deer Control

SOLEBURY — Few sights can top the serene majesty of a white-tailed deer in a green field or a shaded wood.
But that same deer can inflict damage and death on the nation's highways and back roads.
The problem, experts agree, is the conflict that results when the habitats of people and nature overlap. Where the experts disagree is how best to handle the conflict.
Some experts advocate allowing hunters to thin the herd, but this summer, the problem became too severe in a local community to wait for hunting season.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services has said a more immediate response was needed in Solebury Township to cut the deer-vehicle collision rate of two every three days and also to curtail the damage inflicted on local crops.
Wildlife Services sent in a crew, including a sharpshooter with night-vision goggles and thermal imaging equipment, to cull the herd. The crew killed 116 deer, including 12 fawns, over a four-night period. The crew will return sometime in August to continue the shoot.
The Humane Society of the United States says there are other, better methods to control the conflict that are also more humane. Tonight (July 26) at New Hope-Solebury High School at 6:30 p.m., the society will present a discussion of nonlethal methods. Donald Elroy, the society's director of wildlife advocacy in Washington D.C., will be the speaker.
People who attend the meeting will have the opportunity to sign a petition against the lethal methods of deer control.
The petition is intended not just for Solebury residents, but for anyone who "feels this could become an issue in their area," said Kathy Mays Acker, a former Solebury resident who now resides in Plumsteadville.
She added, "So we can show our representatives that we do not care to ever have them go and think along these lines when there are so many other ways to address this issue."
The shoot in Solebury may cause an undesirable increase in the number of deer, according to the Humane Society.
It could result in "less challenging situations and more habitat for the remaining deer," Mr. Elroy said.
He added, "When this occurs, the deer rebound by having more sets of twins, thereby increasing population numbers."
The society says other effective methods would address the collisions and the loss of income to farmers as well as Lyme disease.
"Crop loss and damage could easily be compensated by the community or through USDA," Mr. Elroy told Wildlife Services and Solebury in a letter e-mailed June 20. "Compensation for crop loss is a regular program under the auspices of the USDA."
To prevent the damage in the first place, Mr. Elroy said nurseries in the area have had "very impressive results" when they erected deer fencing.
The frequency of collisions can be lowered through a number of means, according to the society. Among the options are lower speed limits, Strieter-Lite reflectors, motion sensor flashing signals, wildlife crossings and green bridges.
The Strieter-Lite Wild Animal Highway Warning Reflector System was patented in 1994. It is designed to work between dusk and dawn when deer are most active. The system reflects vehicle headlights and sends out a reflected beam at deer. It acts to deter deer from crossing the road while traffic is approaching.
Green bridges are grassy, earth-like pathways or bridges constructed over roads. They funnel deer and other large wildlife away from the path of traffic.
With the proximity of deer to the human population comes a concern for ticks, and with certain ticks comes disease. Tick bites can result in at least 10 different diseases in humans, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, according to the American Lyme Disease Foundation.
The deer tick, or black-legged tick, is responsible for transmitting Lyme disease in the eastern part of the United States. It needs to feed on blood as it moves through the three stages of its life cycle, larva, nymph and adult.
In the adult stage, the tick waits on leaves or grass for a passing host, preferably a deer, and latches on as the deer passes by.
The USDA has used a device called a four-poster to deal with ticks in the deer population. It is a metal device where deer feed. As they insert their heads and necks into the device, they are brushed with a tick-killing chemical.
The Humane Society says the USDA should also consider ways to control ticks at other stages in the life cycle.
"If the ticks are controlled at an earlier developmental stage, it would have an overall larger effect on tick population and control of Lyme disease," Mr. Elroy said. "The black-legged tick is not specific to deer and transfers through a variety of hosts during different life stages."
To control the deer population, the society also points to methods of contraception as well as surgical sterilization.
"In short, there are a variety of non-lethal approaches that should have been implemented in the initial stage of any strategy or plan concerning human-deer conflict situations," Mr. Elroy said.


1 comment:

Arnold said...

Every time I see articles where activists say "there are humane ways to control deer", I wonder how they picture the audience to whom they are directing this folderol. If there was a humane way, that really worked, us deer plagued people would rush to embrace it. Anyone who has deer problems and access to the internet can uncover the so-called humane deer control methods in 15 minutes of searching.
The problem is that none of them are effective. Even the govt. agency that is developing the newest contraceptive says you must first reduce the poulation by lethal means. Strieter lights are dubious at best. Insecticides for deer or spraying for ticks have been tried & failed.
And in the meanwhile, the deer population zooms, year by year as does Lyme and deer-vehicle collisions. And our forests and native flora & fauna decline as the deer destroy their habitat.