Village of Lansing Trustees voted to extend its deer management program for its 11th year. Cornell University Department of Natural Resources' Dr. Bernd Blossey, who manages the program for the Village, asked to repeat a special Deer Management Focus Areas (DMFA) version of the program that allows baiting and hunting at night to increase the prospect of success in controlling the deer population in the Village.
The program began in 2007 after complaints from landowners whose property and gardens were destroyed by a deer population that could not be sustained in the Village. The first year 11 deer were taken, but only two in 2008. In 2009 33 deer were taken, then in subsequent years numbers in the mid-40s or mid-60s were taken. In 2014 a high of 68 deer were removed from the Village population, and 43 last year.
Blossey said he recruits only experienced bow hunters for the Village program, who are monitored for safe hunting, and to make sure deer are killed and not wounded to wander off. Since the Village began applying to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for DMFA permits the numbers have been generally higher. But last year the program only accounted for 43 deer, down from 65 the year before. Blossey said that it is increasingly important to vary hunting times and areas, because the smart deer are on to the hunters.
"We spend 7 to 10 hours per deer," he said. "Getting the last deer smart will take longer and longer. You need to try to develop resources and approaches that are unpredictable. That's what we try to do."
Trustee Ronny Hardaway argued that the Trustees should set a cap on the number of deer the program could take each year, saying that it could be revisited each year.
"I'm concerned that it may be perceived as killing for killing's sake," he said. "I know it's not that, but people do perceive that. If we could negotiate the target number we shoot each year, and after that we stop... one year it might be too low, and one year it might be too high, but with experience we might be able to arrive at an annual number that comes pretty close to what you want and what we need as a village."
But Blossey said that without solid population numbers such a system would be arbitrary. He said Hardaway's approach would work better on a regional basis if neighboring communities were to join with the Village to account for deer that wander across municipal borders.
"The problem that I have with that for the Village is we have no idea about how many deer we have in the Village and what the relationship is of the number of deer to the damage they do," Blossey said. "If we had that information your system sounds perfect. We don't have that evidence unless you, as a Village, develop that. Let's say the forage conditions in the Village improve, as they have. If you talk to some of the neighbors they will see plants growing where they haven't seen them grow before. If there is more forage you could allow more deer to be there. Going in with a number doesn't make any sense, because what's OK today may be too low if the conditions are good in the future. That's why a static number doesn't make sense."
The Trustees unanimously approved the program, with hunting by approved program participants beginning September 20th. Last year the number of participating property owners who allow hunting for program participants was in the low 20s. Blossey said that could potentially rise to about 30 this year.