Wednesday, May 07, 2008

NEW YORK NEWS: Deer Sightings on Staten Island Continue to Rise

There will be no deer hunting on Staten Island. Not anytime soon, probably not ever.

But there are deer aplenty, and in growing numbers, on Staten Island, the closest thing New York City has to a suburban borough, browsing in people’s yards, drawing double-takes at highway interchanges, getting hit by cars. There are so many deer that the state decided it needed to study them and figure out what to do about them.

According to the study, released on Friday, there are at least 24 deer, concentrated on the western side of the island, including at least two fawns. It is enough to constitute an unusual pest-control challenge in the nation’s largest city.

“Deer are beautiful animals, and we love to see them in the wild,” Suzanne Mattei, the regional director for the State Department of Environmental Conservation, said at an outdoor news conference at the Greenbelt Nature Center in the island’s lushly wooded heart. “But when they come into urban areas, we have to manage them carefully.”

The proposals made in the study are modest ones: more deer-crossing signs (eight were installed along the West Shore Expressway last year at the urging of Assemblyman Michael Cusick), some fencing and a public-education campaign.

“We want Staten Islanders to be deer-savvy,” said the deputy borough president, Ed Burke.

Officials warn that in addition to endangering drivers, deer are host to the ticks that carry Lyme disease.

And if unchecked, the deer could put a serious dent in Staten Island’s greenery, which is already threatened by development, said Joseph Pane, the state biologist who conducted the survey by traipsing through the woods for most of January and February.

“They’ll eat everything within reach, to the point where you have nothing growing,” Mr. Pane said, as if describing an attack by 350-pound rats with antlers. “They go after things as soon as they sprout and you have no seed source.”

While the survey took in only a fraction of the island’s wooded areas, Ms. Mattei said the department felt that 24 deer counted represented most of the herd.

“At least now we have data,” she said. “We have something more than just, ‘Golly gee, I saw a deer.’ ”

Deer sightings began to be reported with some frequency on Staten Island around 2000. State officials say the deer swam across the Arthur Kill from New Jersey, decades after having been wiped out on the island.

But old-timers in the island’s rugged southwest corner say the deer never left. “There have always been deer on Staten Island,” said Cherryl Mitchell, who runs a stable called Richer Farm in Charleston, just north of the Outerbridge Crossing. “My husband is a native Staten Islander, he’s 66 years old, and he’s seen them since he was 6 years old.”

Mrs. Mitchell, 57, said that when she moved to Charleston in 1979, she would see deer tracks, but after a wave of construction nearby, she started to see deer. She said she had been spotting one deer, which she named Grandpa, recognizable by a distinctly crooked nostril, for 18 years.

Mrs. Mitchell said she had also seen men with bows and arrows hunting the deer in Clay Pit Ponds State Park, adjoining her property. Last year, the conservation department received a spate of complaints about hunters shooting at deer.

Hunting, whether with bow and arrow or firearm, is illegal in New York City, which is why a harvest is not among the management options the state is considering. And though deer have natural predators elsewhere in the state, there are no plans to introduce bears or coyotes to Staten Island either.

“I think it’s going to be challenging enough dealing with the coexistence of the deer and the people,” Ms. Mattei said.

The deer survey, which will become an annual event, was based on sightings called in by residents in January and February. The sighting log reads like a tour of the island’s back roads and parking lots.

“Three deer, gully behind Target near Englewood Ave.”

“1/27/2008, six deer, skating pavilion, Arthur Kill Road.”

The sightings were concentrated in four areas: near Howland Hook in the northwest corner of the island, near Clay Pit Ponds State Park, near Mount Loretto and Tottenville at the southern tip, and around the Greenbelt. Mr. Pane bundled up, took clipboard in hand and went on the prowl.

Friday afternoon, Mrs. Mitchell led a reporter on her own deer tour in the woods just beyond her riding ring. In five minutes, she pointed out the tracks of at least six deer: does with rounded hoofprints, bucks with big pointy prints the length of a man’s finger, fawns with little prints.

Mrs. Mitchell had little use for the state and its scientist-bureaucrats. But she said she agreed with the conclusions of the study.

“They need to just properly put some fences along the highways, put some signs up and leave them the hell alone,” she said.



Anonymous said...

I was driving home thursday night at about 5:20 pm on hylan Blvd. when out of no where a deer suddenly appeared in front of my mini van. I hit the deer so hard it felt like I hit a brick wall. My 5 year old son was in the care with me. We were not hurt but rather very shaken up. As for the deer, he was not so lucky. I called the police to make a report and they told me I was VERY lucky that the deer did not smash my windshield and we were not hurt. My van on the other hand, is very damaged. My insurance will not cover the damage so I guess I will have to pay out of pocket. I did not even know that it was possible for deer to live on Staten Island. Something needs to be done or someone is going to get killed!

Anonymous said...

In the spring of 2008,I saw a doe(female deer) in Westerleigh, Staten Island near I.S. 51 along the service road " Willow Road East " behind the metal fences that are on the left side of the road. I couldnt believe it! a deer in Westerleigh some people say its Graniteville, but on most maps its Westerleigh. The only other sighting of a deer I saw was at Exit "2" on the West Shore Expressway near the turning road that leads onto the Korean Memorial Expressway I think thats the area of Charleston.I hope to see a big Buck and a Fawn on Staten Island someday.

Anonymous said...

I have read on websites that there are deer in "CLAY PIT PONDS STTAE PARK PRESERVE",so out of curiosity I went yesterday(NOV,14th)to the preserve the see if this was a fact or not . I first went inside their little office/center(Which is an old house)to get information on the preserve. I female employee/ranger greeted me and gave me the information I needed. On my way out I asked her " I had heard there was deer in the woods here, is that true ? Her reply : Yes ! . Well when I heard that,I had to take her word for it .I decided to take the blue trail and within 5-7 minutes I saw a wooden bench about 40-50 yards from me and I saw a doe within several feet from there . I was quite surprised that I saw a deer that quick . I had figured it would take me some time or possibly not find one at all. I say it would take some time because this is Staten Island not Upstate where deer are plenty . Also there were other people ther that I ran into that told me they had seen other female does there which I did see about 20 minutes later but I only seen them jumping away dashing out of site. So I didnt have a great look at them . Some man had told me he had seen a buck there,I belive it. I had seen some of the smaller trees " bark "peeled off from most likely the deer antlers rubbing on the trees. I cant wait to go there again!

Anonymous said...

Just took my dog for a walk in Arden woods and we spotted a fawn about 100 ft away. Pretty sure Mommy had to be close by. If you want to go Deer watching, I recommend Clay Pit pond reserve. I spotted a total of 8 deer with in 2 hours. Including a 4 point buck.