WAR ON WILDLIFE WAGED IN PARK IN UPSTATE NEW YORK
By Sandy Baker
Under the cover of darkness, bullets rip into the dreams of children,
the peace of homeowners, and the bodies of fawns and pregnant does due
A “bait and shoot” deer “program” is now going on in Durand Eastman
Park’s 965 acres, surrounded on three sides by homes and on the north by
Lake Ontario. There are five established bait sites (three in the park)
to which deer have been lured to for months in preparation for their
slaughter by “sharpshooters.” Seventeen deer are reported killed during
two nights of shooting under this program. Residents report wounded or
maimed deer limping into their yards the day after a shoot.
The scientifically unfounded “bait and shoot” program was approved by
the Town of Irondequoit, a suburb of Rochester, in the County of Monroe
as a multi-year plan, with plans to kill 80 deer this year and possibly
increasing numbers each year in and near the Irondequoit park.
Local bans on firearms discharge were lifted to allow the “bait and
shoot.” This program is being called a “model” for the entire county
park system. Opponents view it as inappropriate, a dangerous precedent,
and a violation of rights.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), New York’s
recreational hunting agency, issued a “nuisance permit” to allow the
plan. A stacked task force, set up by Cornell Cooperative Extension at
the invitation of the DEC, rubber-stamped a “controlled hunt.”
Public safety is one rationale behind the program. However, after
years of urging, the town and county have done nothing to implement
proven public safety measures. Killing deer does not address public
safety. Public safety is a separate issue.
There are no data on the deer population. A census in March, 1992 was
discredited. It showed 178 total deer in Irondequoit (130 in the park).
The permit was based on deer-car accident figures (many include
duplication or are unsubstantiated), and damage to park and homeowner
vegetation. There are no transect studies on park vegetative damage.
Deer have become scapegoats for any alleged damage. Information has
been mishandled by some factions, including a small group of “outraged
The Tug of War – A Historical Overview
Since about 1978, bowhunting, the DEC’s hunting preference, has been
proposed and defeated (the threat of bowhunting in the public county
park system still exists). In 1990, the Irondequoit Deer Action
Committee (IDAC) formed to explore herd reduction methods. Its founders
included a county legislator who is now president of the legislature,
and other proponents of hunting.
The back page of a Town Hall Report was used for a Damage Survey
(responded to by less than 3% of the residents) two years ago. Questions
were weighted and respondents thought they would be able to collect for
damages. This report was used for a plan to trap and transfer the
“publicly owned” deer to a private venison farm. The DEC, although
stating publicly they would not allow deer to be used in a private
business, wrote they would allow it in exchange for a hunt program in
another county park.
The Monroe County Alliance for Wildlife Protection (MCAWP) formed in
the Spring of 1991. We began an immediate push for the implementation of
public safety measures to reduce the risk of deer-car accidents (Swareflex
reflectors, reduced and enforced speed limits better and more
deer-crossing signs, trimming underbrush, motorist education). MCAWP has
a three-year overlay map pinpointing locations of accidents. Deer are
creatures of habit and cross for generations at the same locations
(figures and map available). The town and county still have not
addressed public safety.
Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick, the acknowledged leader in the field of wildlife
fertility control (immunocontraception), came to Rochester in June,
1992. He offered his vaccine in the Fall of 1992 to be used as part of a
site-appropriate data-gathering/contraception program. This proposal
fell on deaf ears. Other professional proposals, such as Dr. Porter’s
census-taking offer, using cutting-edge technology, also went nowhere.
MCAWP designed a six-point plan to resolve the deer situation, cited
as a “national model” by the Humane Society of the U.S. This is a
“kinder, gentler” method, designed for urban/suburban settings where
hunting is not legal, wise or safe.
A Shot in the Dark
In spite of alternatives and public will, “bait and shoot” began on
March 31, 1993. Four deer were killed. Thirteen more were killed on
Residents report that nearly tame deer are wounded and skittish.
Officials have been cautioned by the DEC that the deer would be
“spooked.” Deer-car accidents increased during the first week of the
bait and shoot.
Development has been unchecked, as in the case of the 35-acre Winding
Woods project adjacent to the park. Woodland was flattened without an
environmental study, in spite of a written warning by the Environmental
Conservation Board that this area acted as a major north-south runway
for deer in and out of the park. Following this devastation, accidents
increased on the stretch of road nearby.
Due to well-documented biological studies on “compensatory rebound”
(the phenomenon of more births following a decline in population),
wildlife advocates view this plan as ineffective, a “quick fix that
won’t fix anything.” Data must be gathered on population size, birth
rates, migratory patterns, and buck-doe ratios. A realistic population
control program must be fact-based. There are still no valid criteria to
measure the effectiveness of any plan. --------April 14, 1993.
Eighty deer were reported killed during the 1993 “bait and shoot” at
a cost of $470/animal (hidden costs not reported). Deer-car accidents
increased during and after the program. While many accidents occurred at
the same “hot spots” they had in previous years, there were some new
areas across a road that cuts through the park where there had
previously been a low incidence of accidents. Public safety measures
have not been implemented.
1994 saw the “bait and shoot” begin in January. Of the 160 deer
targeted, 160 were reported killed. Although proposed, an accurate
infrared aerial count of the deer has still not been taken. This year,
on-duty sheriff’s officers did the shooting (hidden costs not included
in budgeting). No humane officers nor media were allowed to witness the
massacre. Silencers were used on guns in hopes of silencing the protests
of residents. Residents reported terrified deer running wildly back and
forth across the road following a night’s shoot. Now officials say they
will lower the speed limit on Lakeshore Blvd. and use reflectors.
DEC officials have said both that the deer “appear healthier” and
they are “in poor condition.” (Nature also had a say by giving this area
another “hard” winter.) At this point, it is reported that deer are
getting harder to find because the deer are becoming wary of spotlights
and there are fewer of them. (Again, how many were there? How many are
left?) Female deer had more embryos in them this year (compensatory
rebound due to last year’s ineffective program). More and more new
people are raising their voices against this violent action.
An Uneasy Peace
In a 1991 letter to the Parks Department, the DEC proclaimed that the
County park system easily lends itself to bowhunting. If 50-80 deer
remain, it is believed that bowhunting will be again proposed. This
“magic” number ensures a trophy herd, bucks develop larger racks due to
greater nutrition from an abundance of vegetation; they also claim that
bow hunting would be effective at reducing the population of such a
small herd. Also, the compensatory rebound mechanism would kick in,
thereby maximizing the reproductive rate for future kills.
Monroe County bowhunting proponent and legislature president, and
allies, see an immediate future of annual bait and shoot followed by
long years of seasonal bow hunts in the city, as well as at other county
parks “if the need arises.”
Will another precedent be set as the parks fall to yearly bowhunting?
Will people be denied access to their parks during hunting season every
year? Will these deer continue to fight for their lives? Will people
fight a losing battle for retaining peaceful coexistence with nature
close to home? Will peaceful alternatives (contraception, adaptation,
education) be given a chance? ------February 12, 1994
The truth is out.
The real agenda is on the table.
The battle lines have been drawn.
The real war is just beginning.
The above information was taken from various media reports. The
Monroe County Alliance for Wildlife Protection (MCAWP) supports
alternative solutions to hunting in urban/suburban areas that are
long-term, effective and humane. MCAWP does not take a position on rural
hunting. MCAWP is a public education organization and provides
information on gardening, public safety and contraception to prevent or
alleviate human-deer conflict situations. MCAWP can be contacted at POB
90854, Rochester, NY 14609.
Editor’s note: Studies have shown that hunters prefer to hunt near
home. The drop in the sale of hunting licenses has been attributed in
large part to the fact that convenient hunting areas are becoming rare
due to development. We will increasingly witness urban and suburban
parks being pried open, in spite of public opposition, by a concerted
effort of hunting interests, wildlife managers and local officials for
hunters to plunder.