Wednesday, July 08, 2009

CONNECTICUT NEWS: FoA Protests Town Decision to Hunt Deer

No news on whether Friends of Spirochetes was also involved in organizing the protest.

Protesters lined the Post Road at Sherman Green Wednesday afternoon, demonstrating against a town committee's consideration of allowing hunting on public property to control the local deer population.

"The goal is to enlighten Fairfield residents to what's going on, where it's at and encourage people to start making phone calls and writing letters and let the commission know that we're not going to stand for this," said Nancy Rice, a Friends of
Animals employee who organized the rally.

The group held aloft signs that read: "Stop the War on Wildlife," "Ignoring Facts for the Thrill of the Kill," and "Conservation Commission: Do Not Change Regulations to Allow Killing." The protest didn't go off exactly as planned. One dramatic sign -- a photo of a deer with an arrow through its head -- was kept under wraps because a children's concert was under way on the green.

A hunter can now take down a deer on private property with a bow or a gun, depending on the property's size and how close neighboring homes are.

Conservation Commission member Chester Burley told the Fairfield Citizen last week that if hunting deer on public property is allowed in Fairfield, it would be very controlled and probably wouldn't be allowed more than three times per year.

However, Redding resident Lynn Gorfinkle, who has attended meetings of Fairfield's Deer Management Subcommittee and is a longtime opponent of hunting, said Wednesday that no hunting on public space, no matter how controlled, can be entirely safe.

"It will not work," she said, suggesting that large public lands won't be roped off and many people may miss signs that will posted about the controlled hunts, especially children.

In addition, Gorfinkle said hunters wound or kill 1,000 people in the United States each year.

The Conservation Commission's Deer Management Committee has considered various options to control deer overpopulation, and also has heard suggestions by the public. In addition to hunting, the options include trapping and relocating deer, administering birth control, using repellents and fencing off properties.

Gorfinkle said, "The right way to handle the deer population is to handle the perceived problem that some few individuals claim to have."

For example, deer often get blamed for the spread of Lyme disease, but Gofinkle said a deer is only one of the hosts for the ticks that spread the illness.

"Killing deer will not eliminate Lyme disease," Gorfinkle added.

If people have a problem with deer eating their gardens, Gorfinkle said they should erect a wire fence around their plants and flowers, use repellent sprays or plant things they know the deer won't eat.

Fairfield resident Debbie Lake said she has not seen enough deer to back up the Conservation Commission finding that there are 75 deer per square mile in town, even when she's in the Lake Hills area, where her mother lives.

Hunters looking for deer "are going to wind up killing dogs or kids, or anything," Lake said.

Gorfinkle said she suspects that "this effort on the part of the deer committee was choreographed through their contact with the FCMDMA [Fairfield County Municipal Deer Management Alliance] via Milan Bull," a hunter who serves on the Conservation Commission.

A few weeks ago, Rice filed a complaint against the Conservation Commission, claiming that members Bull and Burley violated the town's code of standards and conduct as members of the Deer Management Committee. Rice felt the two members are biased in favor of hunting, as one is a hunter and the other a gardener. The claim was dismissed last week.

In an interview last week, Burley said, "The fact that I'm a gardener and that influences or makes me biased beyond the point of being rational and impartial is as ludicrous an accusation as it is to tell a vegetarian not to shop at Stop & Shop because they sell meat there."

Calls to Bull were not returned.

Gorfinkle, who was born in Fairfield, said past history in various communities and states shows that killing deer increases, rather than decreases, the overall the deer population.

"There's more habitat for the remaining deer," she said. "Their health is amplified.

Their reproductive ability is amplified and instead of maybe having one fawn, a mother will have two or fawns. Hunting spurs the rate of reproduction."

Although the Conservation Commission has been accused of being pro-hunting, it is not following the opinion of the first selectman. Rice said she received a letter from First Selectman Kenneth Flatto stating he opposes the killing of any animals in Fairfield.

"It's good to know he's on our side," Rice said. "I don't know if it will help but it's good to know he's on our side."

Source: Connecticut Post

Monday, July 06, 2009

ARKANSAS NEWS: Special Hunts Scheduled to Reduce Deer

Every year in Arkansas, thousands of drivers report crashing their vehicles into deer.

Hundreds more complain to their city officials about the animals eating precious rosebushes or grazing in backyard gardens. Deer in some areas have become such nuisances that the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has been organizing urban hunts over the past few years to thin herds around towns. Those hunters are allowed to use only bows and arrows.

Hunts are scheduled for September and January in Horseshoe Bend, Cherokee Village, Bull Shoals and Hot Springs Village.

"The main thing is we've been getting in a lot of car accidents with them. I've hit three over the last few years," Horseshoe Bend Mayor Bob Barnes said. "This was a very touchy subject. We put it to ballot, and having urban hunts passed with about 67 percent for it."

Brad Miller, a deer biologist for the Game and Fish Commission, said 1,215 people reported crashing into deer in 2007 compared with 1,216 and 1,213 in 2006 and 2005, respectively. The animals can often be seen grazing along roads, Miller noted.

"Basically, they eat weeds," he said. "If it's late in winter, they will likely be eating the grasses on the side of the road. At other times of the year, they like the clover or other various weeds like goldenrod."

A report on deer-vehicle-collision claims from State Farm Insurance lists 18,498 such accidents in Arkansas from 2007 through 2008. Nationwide, the report lists 1.2 million such collisions for the same time period.

Accurately calculating the number of deer-vehicle collisions each year is difficult.

"People aren't required to report the accidents to Game and Fish," Miller said. "So, our numbers are only those folks who called our 24-hour number where you can report accidents with wildlife or if you had something like a bear in your yard."

The State Farm data also include collisions with moose and elk. There is an elk herd in north Arkansas near the Buffalo River.

"This data is based on actual comprehensive and collision claims, and as such, would not include deer-vehicle collisions where the policyholder had only liability insurance coverage, which is typically carried on older vehicles in some states," the report reads.

Miller said that typically, city leaders contact the commission asking for help after resident complaints mount. Wildlife experts then go to the area and survey the deer population and make recommendations to city leaders.

After conducting surveys in 2006 and 2007, the Game and Fish Commission recommended in 2007 that Little Rock consider allowing urban hunts. So far there haven't been any.

The highest density of deer was found in the Two Rivers Park area near Pinnacle Mountain. The June 2007 survey found that the area had one deer for every 3.4 acres. The June 2006 data showed one deer for every 2.5 acres (256 deer per square mile).

Assistant City Manager Bryan Day said having a hunt inside the Little Rock city limits will require much discussion.

He said that eight or nine years ago, the city amended an ordinance to prohibit the discharge of weapons - including bows - inside the city limits.

"Game and Fish came to us a couple of years ago and said a lot of places were having successful urban hunts in other areas of the state, and they would like us to consider it," Day said. "We have forwarded the Game and Fish request to the legal department for review. We're very much in an exploratory phase, and the staff does not have a recommendation yet for the city Board of Directors."

An urban hunt is the cheapest option for an area with nuisance deer herds the Game and Fish Commission found, listing the other options as:

Fertility drugs: $2 to $10 per dose, but $500 to $1,000 to trap or dart each deer.

Trapping and relocating: $400 to $1,000 per deer, with a low survival rate expected for the animals in unfamiliar habitat.

Sharpshooters: $150 to $400 per deer, with harvested animals donated to needy families.

In an urban hunt, each hunter is required to donate his first deer, which must be a doe, to Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry.

In addition to reducing the number of collisions with vehicles, Miller said, keeping the deer population in check is important because the animals are a "keystone" species.

"That means they have the propensity to affect numerous other species, some positively and some negatively," Miller said. "For ground-nesting birds, deer can significantly reduce the amount of vegetative cover, and they can potentially eliminate some plant species altogether."

Sitting in his west Little Rock office, decorated with antlers and trophy art made from game fowl feathers, Miller pulled up a photo on his computer to illustrate his point.

The picture shows a wooded area with a fence running down the middle of the frame. On the side of the fence where there are no deer, there are wild fruit bushes, saplings and shrubs bunched between the towering trees. On the other side, the trees appear to be growing from a carpet of ferns. No other vegetation is visible.

"The deer don't eat the ferns," Miller said. "They don't like them much."

After completing the necessary education classes, 250 hunters will be selected at random for each urban hunting season with the exception of the hunt in Hot Springs Village where only 200 will be allowed to participate.

To be eligible, each hunter must complete the International Bowhunter Education Program either in the traditional classroom setting or online. Once a hunter passes the program, the certification is good for life, according to the Game and Fish Commission.

The final step for a hunter to become eligible to participate in the urban hunts is passing a shooting proficiency test.

"Basically they will be shooting at lifelike deer targets from 20 yards away," Miller said. "They'll have to hit a certain place with a certain number of arrows to qualify."

Barnes said that while the deer in Horseshoe Bend have been ravaging flower beds and gardens and crashing into vehicles, he's not planning to be a part of the hunt.

"It wouldn't be to my benefit," he said. "There's no way I could hit one using a bow."

Source: NWANews

GEORGIA NEWS: Berry College Studies Ways to Reduce Deer-Vehicle Collisions

Deer-vehicle collisions are a nationwide problem, killing an estimated 150 people each year and causing a billion dollars worth of damage, researchers say.

And, with as many as 2,500 deer roaming its property on any given day, Berry College is the perfect setting to study ways to avoid the collisions.

George Gallagher, professor of animal science, and his team of Berry students are collaborating with Bob Warren and Karl Miller of the University of Georgia to develop methods and devices to minimize deer-vehicle collisions. Their efforts are part of a seven-year study funded by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

“We do all our preliminary lab work at UGA’s captive deer facility and all the field work at Berry,” said Gallagher. “Berry represents a very wonderful urban deer population.”

Their past experiments have been designed to measure how a deer perceives and reacts to sights and sounds — in order to better understand the anatomy and physiology of the animal.

A common misconception is that deer have excellent hearing, Gallagher said.

“The truth is, their hearing is much closer to our hearing,” he said.

The current, yearlong, study is focusing on the effectiveness of a new fence designed to keep deer off roadways and lessen the possibility of an accident.

As part of this study, a two-mile stretch of temporary fencing has been constructed along Lavender Mountain Drive, which connects Berry’s main and mountain campuses.

One mile consists of the standard eight-foot fence often seen along highways.

“A deer can typically jump an eight-foot to ninefoot fence,” Gallagher said. This type of fence will work 80 to 90 percent of the time, but it’s relatively expensive and unattractive, he said.

The second mile consists of a new cost-effective design previously tested on the captive deer herd at UGA.

The new design is a fence with Bayco wire lined along the top and angled away from the road.

“Because of the angle, deer are a lot less likely to want to jump the fence,” Gallagher explained.

At the same time, if a deer is on the side of the road and comes upon the fence, it is more likely to jump over the fence to the safer side.

“The goal is to provide a fence that balances the need to minimize deer-vehicle collisions with a more cost-effective design, better suited for implementation and maintenance by Georgia and other DOT operations,” he said.

Before building the fence, teams of researchers canvassed the area around Lavender Mountain Drive in an effort to fit deer with GPS radio collars. Once deer have been collared, researchers are able to track their movements and learn more about their habits.

“The GPS collars provide an unprecedented glimpse into deer behavior by giving us a location update every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day, for an entire year,” Gallagher explained.

“This type of information allows us to develop a better understanding of their behavior, which, in turn, puts us in a better position to try to determine how to alter their actions.”

In an effort to be as humane as possible, researchers used both tranquilizer darts and rocket-propelled nets to capture the deer without causing undue injury.

With the fences up, and the GPS collars on approximately 20 deer around Lavender Mountain Drive, Gallagher and his team are now collecting data.

Gallagher said he is hoping to provide more insight about the new fence by January.

“I’m not a fan of the high fences. I’m hoping we’ll have a fence design that is cost-effective and effective for the deer,” he said. “Now, we’re just waiting and letting the deer be deer.”

Source: Rome News Tribune