Those who live in and drive through West Seneca know where they’re likely to cross paths with deer: East and West Road, and Clinton Street are among locations known for car-deer accidents, according to Police Chief Daniel M. Denz.
So is it time for the town to take the buck by the antlers and control the deer population?
There was no quick answer Monday afternoon, when lawmakers learned their options from a senior big-game biologist for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Officials said they’ve heard complaints from residents – particularly those whose gardens and landscapes have been eaten.
“As you know, West Seneca is probably the forefront of a deer population explosion that is occurring throughout Western New York,” said Tim Spierto of the DEC.
As old forests and farmland disappear, white-tail deer are feasting on the landscaping surrounding suburban homes. “Arborvitae is like candy to them,” Spierto said, referring to the popular evergreen.
And as the food supply increases for deer, so do reproductive rates.
Calculating the population is difficult in West Seneca, where hunting isn’t allowed; DEC estimates typically include the number of deer “harvested” during hunting season.
Spierto guessed West Seneca’s population is somewhere around 50 deer per square mile. He said it doesn’t take much more than 30 per square mile to make an impact.
Even so, the police chief said the number of car-deer accidents has been falling annually since 2009, when there were 212; to 180 in 2012; with 107 so far this year. “They still are significant,” Denz said.
What can be done?
Fencing and deer repellents, such as coyote urine, applied around landscapes can be time-consuming and expensive, Spierto said. Deer contraception costs about $1,000 per animal. And trapping deer, then transferring them to other locations can’t be done when diseases are present.
Which leaves killing them.
“This is where the public gets involved, and they are passionate about it,” Spierto said.
Nearby suburbs, including Amherst and Cheektowaga, control their deer populations with DEC-permitted bait-and-shoot programs, carried out by police officers firing from tree stands to ensure human safety. It’s done during the winter, when does of breeding age are pregnant. “It helps you reduce the population a little quicker,” Spierto said.
Several businesses in the town, including landscape nurseries, already have permits to control deer on their land.
“I think whatever the board decides, it should be well thought out,” said Denz. “I’m not going either way with it.”
Councilman John Rusinski said: “I think it’s important to get how the residents feel on something like this.” He proposed an online poll.