Elected Official Ill-Equipped for Deer Discussion

By Taffy Williams

Originally submitted as an Op-Ed to public officials at Mamaroneck and Rye New York, in response to s proposal to slaughter a local population of deer.

I attended the deer-management meeting in Mamaroneck on Sept. 25, 2015, which in many ways, except for trying to halt — or make sense of — the madness of a deer cull, was a complete waste of taxpayers’ and my time.

Wildlife biologist Kevin Clark repeated the idea that deer are “overpopulated” in Mamaroneck and that bow-and-arrow hunting is the preferred cull method, but he failed to consider that deer are transient, wide-ranging foragers, and travel a specific habitual route around their home range through the night and, infrequently, during the day. Clark failed to consider or discuss that this could be and is most likely a small population of no more than 20-30 deer roaming through Mamaroneck and Rye on their constant quest for food and thus survival, and being RECOUNTED CONTINUALLY, thus INFLATING THE NUMBERS. One person sees a handful of deer in the Rye Marshlands, and they believe there are a dozen deer there.

In the course of the evening or day, the deer move to the Read Conservancy, and someone sees them and claims there are a dozen more deer there. The deer move to another wooded area and are seen and counted as another dozen deer. This goes on and on 24/7. Thus people erroneously believe there are “hundreds of deer” roaming through Mamaroneck. Clark failed to discuss this basic deer behavior in connection with population assessment, instead hammering home his biased belief that there is a serious overpopulation, and that the “deer problem” must and should be solved by slaughtering them.

THERE IS NO PROOF THAT THERE ARE MORE THAN 20-30 DEER IN MAMARONECK! Without an accurate population assessment there is no point in having this debate, or even speculating on the “final solution” to the deer problem. In fact, unlike in Hitler’s Germany, there is no “final solution” for the deer. If you eradicate this small herd, others outside will reproduce and move in to take its place. It is a small herd being recounted over and over again. A CULL IS UNJUSTIFIED. The only benefit to this cull is to the HUNTERS who have a fun, sporting day while harming the sensitivities of this entire village who LOVE WILDLIFE, WANT TO SEE ANIMALS PROTECTED, AND OBJECT STRENUOUSLY TO ANY KILL-MANAGEMENT PLAN.

Westchester County’s “deer management specialist,” John Baker, is a non-credible member of the pro-hunting faction and has shown that such a group cannot be counted on to give accurate assessments of any deer population. The numbers presented by Baker of Westchester County in February 2015, are grossly exaggerated to justify kill permits: 74 deer per one-quarter square mile, or roughly 300 deer per square mile in Mamaroneck! This would be like deer rush hour at Grand Central Terminal, with 1,800 deer roaming the little six-square-mile village! This is absurd and cannot be believed. Even Clark, a wildlife biologist, agreed! Later, after the public ridicule of these outrageous hunting-skewed inflated numbers emerged, Westchester County officials admitted that the counting method was invalid!

Westchester County and Baker’s team should be banned from any counting of wildlife due to their pro-hunting bias and record of inaccuracies. Whether they lied to deliberately mislead the public and increase the fear-mongering call for deer-slaughter or not, when it comes to population assessment of wildlife, Westchester County gets an F for FAILURE, and should be completely and permanently banned from the process.

In fact, as a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation wildlife rehabilitator, I am herewith requesting to participate in the “deer count” process by whatever method is used. Each deer should have an unmistakable photographic identification, which is a very simple and easy process to accurately assess the small herd that is struggling to survive in Mamaroneck. If I am prevented from participating, I and my colleagues will conduct our own population identity assessment and publish this information widely, door to door if necessary.

NO CULL SHOULD BE APPROVED UNTIL AN ACCURATE POPULATION ASSESSMENT IS PROVIDED, INCLUDING CARRYING CAPACITY ANALYSIS — NOT BY WESTCHESTER COUNTY, THE WESTCHESTER COUNTY BOWHUNTERS ASSOCIATION, OR ANY FIREARM OR BOWHUNTING-ASSOCIATED ORGANIZATION, AND NOT WITHOUT COMPLETE OVERSIGHT BY A TEAM OF SHARP-EYED AND CREDIBLE LICENSED WILDLIFE REHABILITATORS.

For this reason, the Sept. 25, 2015, meeting that discussed “deer management” falls short of having any value at all, simply because WE DON’T HAVE AN ACCURATE COUNT of how many deer are actually trying to survive in Mamaroneck! Until that assessment is made, any cull is a waste of taxpayers’ money and threatens to exterminate a small, rare and perhaps still viable local population of these ruminants.

The unfortunate appellation “deer tick” is the term for the black-legged tick, orIxodes scapularis.Sadly, thevictims of this disease blame deer, but deer are only a small part of the vector that carries infected ticks. I have pulled ticks from small mammals and even birds! Clark failed topoint out that the black-legged tick is found on mice, squirrels, birds, raptors, fox, raccoon, possum, in fact any warm-blooded land-based species. To blame deer for someone’s Lyme disease is giving credibility to an old wives’ tale that grew out of misnaming this tick the“deer tick”because a black-legged tick was once found on a deer. Blaming deer is misleading. We can’t exterminate all birds and mammals. But we can be honest with the public.

There are many factors that determine the “carrying capacity” of a suburban landscape such as Mamaroneck. The overwhelming factors are the presence of suitable vegetation for food, and relative safety (cover). Busy, vehicle-congested Mamaroneck provides little of either. Mayor Norman Rosenblum stated at the meeting that people have complained about deer all throughout Mamaroneck. Is that supposed to include the heavy commercial districts of Mamaroneck Avenue, Route 1, and the train station?

WE ARE DEMANDING A FULL DISCLOSURE OF COMPLAINTS: how many, contact information for verification, location of complaint, due to the proven erroneously inflated numbers of deer purported by the pro-kill faction of the panel at this meeting. We simply donbelieve it. FOR EVERY ONE COMPLAINT, there are 1,000 PRO-LIFE WILDLIFE SUPPORTERS who are screaming, “DON’T TOUCH OUR DEER!”

I strongly protest the following:

  1. 1. Members of the panel were bowhunters and promoted the sport of bowhunting and the “pro-kill” faction. There were no “pro-life” wildlife biologists, a rejection that reflects the intensely pro-kill bias of the bowhunters on the panel.
  2. Wildlife Biologist Kevin Clark stated, “Bow and arrows kills deer within 30 seconds. I know, because I’ve done it. It is the most humane method of controlling deer.” As he spoke I held up an enlarged poster/photo showing a deer with a long time festering wound from an arrow that had gone through her head. The deer is surviving with this arrow still embedded in her head, and is at ground-level feeding. The use of bow-and-arrow hunting is neither accurate, quick, nor humane. Yet this completely erroneous attitude is blared out to the public as though with absolute authority. This clear deception is MOST OBJECTIONABLE.
  3. Options other than “kill” were explored only briefly and dismissed! Only public commentators elaborated on the success of non-lethal deer management, a sad reflection of the goals of the panel!
  4. On this biased panel, there were no wildlife rehabilitators who work closely with deer and have “hands-on” knowledge of their behaviors and population trends.
  5. Pro-life members of the audience were continually cut off while pro-kill commenters were allowed to speak without restriction. This meeting was conducted unfairly.
  6. Bowhunters promoted bowhunting as the best method of management. This panel should not be promoting a special interest, in this case, bowhunting.
  7. There were no women on the panel.
  8. The high incidence of hunting accidents from bow-and-arrow and firearm hunting was not addressed. Hunting in small Mamaroneck threatens public health and safety and greatly increases risk of death and injury to either hunters themselves, or the innocent public or their pets and property. The major issue of liability coverage for the proposed spree of deer killing was not even addressed until I brought it up during my comments which were improperly and unjustly halted by Mayor Rosenblum.

Proposing the hunting of deer in densely human-populated Mamaroneck is both inconsiderate of the consequences with respect to public health and safety and dismissive of the thousands of people who derive some small infrequent pleasure from seeing deer! Observing deer is a thrill, especially to children, and a comfort. The proof that deer are still surviving here “comforts” hopeful people into believing that humans haven’t “destroyed everything” after all, despite whether that is true or not!

I was a WRITE-IN candidate (G), (R), for Westchester County Legislator, District 15, currently held by incumbent Gordon Burrows, on Nov. 3, 2015.

[Although Taffy lost this election, she will be back and we trust that her political future is bright.]


Taffy Williams is a Class One Wildlife Rehabilitator in New York State; president, New York Whale and Dolphin Action League () a 501(c)3 non-profit for whales; member, board of directors, Cetacean Society International; and a member of the New York Whale and Dolphin Action League. She may be contacted at: tlwilliams@optonline.net

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