Fayetteville village deer management: Matt's Memo

Limestone Creek, Fayetteville.

The deer stood quietly on the roadside as I rounded the turn. Suddenly, it lurched and darted across the road in front of my car. I hit the brakes. No damage done. This happened about a quarter mile outside the Village of Fayetteville. That's a critical delineation for deer. The village just announced today they took 76 deer in the second annual culling by U.S.D.A. sharpshooters.

The deer management program took 89 deer a year ago. That's a total of 165 shot and killed in just over one year. Mayor Olson credited the village's deer management program for a reduction in car collisions with deer over the last year. One village resident who talked with our reporter Brett Hall said he noticed the spring flowers in their yard have not been eaten by the deer this season. Yet neither result was the primary objective of spending tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on a controlled deer shooting program.

Minutes from the series of meetings in 2015 and our reporting pointed to concern over the spread of Lyme Disease as the main reason to consider deer management. The theory floated was fewer deer equals fewer ticks. Fewer ticks equals less Lyme Disease. A community free of Lyme Disease is a noble goal, yet it takes longer to measure.

Onondaga County saw a slight drop in cases of reported Lyme from 2014 to 2015. That's before any deer management began. Was that the start of a trend? Too soon to know. During a public meeting in November of 2015 a representative of the NY State DEC stressed to the village trustees the importance of being able to measure "the impact that the Deer Management Plan has on the population."

As this spring starts to bloom, local veterinarians are saying they are seeing a robust tick population. They are hearing from clients with pets who are coming inside with ticks in their coats.

The Village of Fayetteville does sit in a unique location adjacent to Green Lakes State Park. The sharpshooters are not allowed into the park, but they can wait for the deer on the edge of the 1,785 acre property. It positions the village as habitat to a greater number of deer than a typical suburban community.

Mayor Olson told us he enough information to know that more deer culling will take place next year. But, before setting up plans for another deer culling next year village trustees should get answers to the critical questions about Lyme Disease. Are there fewer cases of Lyme in people since the deer culling began last winter? What is the disease carrying status of the deer being taken by the USDA sharpshooters? Is the reduction of the deer herd within a confined geographic area like a village an effective way to reduce the trafficking of disease carrying ticks by deer?

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