March 21, 2023

When Politics Rules Deer Management

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The location is Ridgefield, Connecticut, located only a few miles from the New York border in the southwestern corner of the state. The problem? Too many deer. The town has an ordinance banning hunting anywhere within the town boundaries.

War has spread throughout the small New England town over what to do about the problem. This debate is not unlike many other towns and cities across America where deer and other wildlife have found safe havens among the small patches of woods throughout the sprawl.

Some people like to see the deer in their backyards, others don’t. The deer are eating up their landscaping, spreading disease and costing thousands in deer-automobile collisions.

Ridgefield has spent a lot of money attempting just about every known cure for reducing the deer numbers except one – hunting them.

On May 31, 2006, the town faces a vote. The vote is about a change in the town ordinance that would allow deer hunting on town-owned property. There are those fighting against any form of hunting as there is a Save-The-Deer committee. The town has formed committee after committee and committees within committees in attempts to further their causes.

One thing I will say for Ridgefield is it appears that most programs that anyone seems to be pushing is multi-faceted. Education and things people can do to reduce the problem are two things that both sides of the aisle seem to be in agreement on.

The debate has been heated, lawsuits threatened and I’m not really sure the vote on May 31st will put an end to anything or resolve the problem. Whatever the outcome of the vote, it is only one small step.

But the politics are getting bad and being a small town, everyone knows everyone else’s business. Being from a small New England town myself and a community activist, the leaders of the community wear several hats. You might leave one committee meeting and go across the hall to another that you are a part of.

Small town politics can get nasty and Ridgefield is no exception. Recently the Lyme Disease Task Force held a forum to educate the citizens on the disease, how to avoid it and what they can do themselves to aid in stopping the spread. As most of us know, Lyme disease is carried by deer and can be spread to humans. In the case of Ridgefield, where they have so many deer living in people’s back yards, the chances of spreading the disease is quite high.

The forum had several speakers from various backgrounds, including medical doctors, veterinarians, landscape engineers, etc. One of the speakers invited to attend was a member of the committee that sponsored the new ordinance to allow deer hunting on town property. His mission was to update those in attendance with the scientific findings of the study done before the new ordinance proposal was put together. This of course, brought outrage from the Save-The-Deer committee who wanted a chance to speak on behalf of saving the deer.

After the Save-The-Deer committee threatened a lawsuit and sought an injunction to stop the forum, the head of the Lyme Disease Task Force removed the speaker from the list of invited speakers.

You can read an article about the entire foolishness here.

States spend millions of dollars each year to pay scientists to manage our wildlife and yet, each day we hear more and more about politicians legislating it. Ridgefield is a prime example of how politics can remove science from the equation.

Tom Remington