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Greenwich Deer Population Soars

GREENWICH, Conn. -- Fairfield County has the most deer per square mile in the country, according to state officials, and there are no signs that their numbers are declining. “There are definitely a lot more deer than there should be,” says Joseph Cassone, Greenwich conservation assistant.

Greenwich itself has a deer population in excess of 60 per square mile. A healthy population level would be 10 to 12 per square mile, Cassone says. According to the state Department of Public Health , unmanaged white-tail deer herds have the potential to double every two years. In January 2009, the area from Greenwich to New Canaan had an estimated 59.6 deer per square mile, according to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection . And by January 2011, the number had risen to 82.5 per square mile for the same area.

Car accidents attributed to deer cause about 29,000 human injuries, 200 human fatalities and $1 billion in property damage annually in the U.S., according to the Wildlife Society Bulletin .

And in the state with the highest incidence of Lyme disease in the nation, Fairfield County is the No. 1 hot spot, according to the Fairfield County Deer Management Alliance , a consortium of municipalities working together to reduce the region’s deer population. Greenwich is a member of the Alliance.

Deer damage woodlands and could have a long-term impact on biodiversity. “They eat everything six feet and down, so all the songbirds that would use that understorage … it’s just vacant now,” said Cassone. “They eat all the new sprouts and it prevents forest regeneration, too.”

There are three main methods of reducing deer populations: hunting, birth control and relocation. In the past, Greenwich has hired contractors to remove deer from town property, says Cassone. The state Department of Environmental Protection has relaxed hunting laws by increasing tag limits and extending seasons to promote additional harvests. “There’s no limit to how many deer you take in Fairfield County,” says Cassone. “You can continually apply for more tags to take more and more deer.”

However, the town has opted out of using birth control methods. “Birth control would only work in a closed population,” says Cassone. “It’s way too expensive to use on any kind of large scale and not all that effective.”

How do the deer affect you on a daily basis? Do you have any suggestions on how the town might reduce their numbers? Comment below or email ahelhoski@thedailygreenwich.com .

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