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A dozen years of deer hunting in Ridgefield open spaces: How has that shaped the influence deer — lovely but hungry, browsing and munching on leafy greens — have had on Ridgefield’s forests?
With a reconsideration of the deer hunting question informally penciled in on the town’s agenda, the Conservation Commission undertook a study of changes in the forest understory. The report was deemed inconclusive — although not everyone agrees.
“...There seems to be no strong rationale to either continue or stop the hunt based on this study alone,” concluded the Conservation Commission’s 24-page Open Space Understory Study.
A different perspective was offered in an eight-page minority report that two commission members, Daniel Levine and Eric Beckenstein, sent to the Board of Selectmen.
“We believe that the town must seriously reconsider the merits of the hunt,” they wrote. “Perhaps a resting period is needed? Perhaps the hunt should only occur every two-three years now (as opposed to every single year).”
The town’s “controlled deer hunt” on open space lands has been going on since 2006, undertaken each fall and winter on town open spaces, under the auspices of the Deer Management Implementation Committee (DMIC).
“Our hunt this year went well,” deer management committee Chairman Stefano Zandri told The Press in a March 15 email. “We harvested 53 deer — 10 bucks and 43 doe.”
The deer committee and its “controlled hunt” on town lands — mostly open spaces, but also other parcels, like the golf course in winter — isn’t the only hunting in town, of course. Deer are also hunted in large state tracts, like the Great Swamp and Bennett’s Pond, and on private lands.
“We consistently account for a third of the deer taken in Ridgefield,” Zandri said.
Reconsider the hunt?
The selectmen began talking last fall about a reconsideration of the town deer hunt. While approving plans for the 2018-19 hunt on 13 town properties, the selectmen seemed to reach a consensus that the hunt should be re-examined this spring.
Nothing has been set up, however.
“That’s a discussion for the board,” First Selectmen Rudy Marconi told The Press. “It’s something that has been discussed in the past, but there’s been no vote as to whether to actually proceed.”
“You never know. We’ll have a discussion and decide what to do,” Marconi said. “It’s possible there’ll be another public hearing. It’s possible there’ll be another town meeting, as well, for people to vote on it —which is what we did initially.
“It is not just the understory report that we will be taking into consideration,” Marconi said.
Also of interest are the “deer counts” that are done periodically by the state, using flyovers during times of snowcover. The counts arrive at educated estimates of the number of deer per square mile.
The State Wildlife Division “conducted a recent flyover in zone 11, including Ridgefield,” Zanrdi said. “Their findings were 40 deer per square mile.”
The state also provided the deer committee with numbers going back to 1996 — a decade before the town’s controlled hunt started — showing the number of deer killed in Rigefield by hunting, by road accidents, or for other reasons.
Numbers from the early years show an almost equal number of deer deaths from hunting and car accidents:
- 1996: roadkill 124, other 25, hunting 123;
- 1997: roadkill 107, other 26, hunting 116;
- 1998: roadkill 122; other 50, hunting 92;