Each Deer in Wilton Costs Taxpayers $3.9k

And that's the conservative estimate.


With deer-related damages costing the town of Wilton about $6.36 million a year, the town is considering the use of long-range sharpshooters and permission to hunt on Saturdays and holidays in order to put a dent in a costly and unyielding deer population.

A recent report from the Deer Management Commission of Wilton states that progress has been “frustratingly slow” due to Conn. DEEP regulations and that Wilton needs to harvest, at minimum, another 100 deer per year to reach a minimum goal of 300 deer kills annually. While the deer population has remained at “60+ per square mile” for several years, the deer commission’s goal is to have only 10-20 deer per sq. mile in town, according to the report.

Deer are expensive, non-taxpaying itinerants of Wilton

In August of 2010, the Conn. Deer Alliance Study approximated the annual cost of deer-related damages in Fairfield County towns:

Deer-related damages associated with:

Environment/ Landscape

Motor Vehicles

Tick Control

Tick-Borne Diseases


Cost to Wilton







Given that Wilton is approx 27 sq. miles (excluding bodies of water), and that there are, conservatively, 60 deer per square mile, there are 1,620 deer in Wilton. Divide $6,355,719 by the estimated Wilton deer population, and it turns out that each deer in Wilton costs $3,923 in damages—and that’s the conservative estimate.

Wilton’s Director of Environmental Affairs Pat Sesto, who confirmed the calculations, noted that the $6.36 mill figure does not include the cost of education about Lyme disease and sick leave and medical-related losses brought on by tick-borne diseases. A more realistic estimate would probably land the cost per deer at over $4,000. The 2010 study estimates that these damages cost $1,176 in taxpayer money per single-family household in Wilton per year.

Greenwich, which incurs over $15 million in deer-related damages annually, spent about $51,680 on a 2005 sharp shooting program which brought in 80 deer over six days, making each kill worth $646. About 2,400 lbs of venison were donated to the local food pantry.

Sharp controversy  and concerns

“It works, but it’s not very popular,” said Joe Cassone, an assistant at the Greenwich Conservation Commission’s office who commented on the 2005 culling program.  The program was “controversial” and “expensive,” and he said that it is too early to tell if Greenwich will propose using sharpshooters again.

At this month’s first Board of Selectmen meeting, Sesto said that a discussion of “social and emotional issues” brought about by sharpshooting needs to happen with the public in order to ease any public anxiety.

“Some might have a feeling that recreational hunting has a sense of fairness that the culling would not,” said Sesto.

Saturday and Holiday Hunting

The Wilton Deer Commission also acknowledged that it faces the upcoming challenge of gaining public trust and support for more hunting days, but also clearly states that no danger would be posed to the public:  the restriction of hunting on Saturdays and holidays was simply put in place “as a means to balance public access and also assuage the perception of safety concerns. This safety concern has no statistical support and given that the properties are closed during the hunt, people will still not be permitted to be on the properties while the hunters are on-site.”  All hunters are required to pass a background check as well, the report states.

Hunting season begins on Sept. 15 and lasts until Jan. 31. 

Mose Hazo June 21, 2012 at 11:01 AM
Please note that there is a definite bias by those "deer committees" and our town's environmentalist, Pat Sesto. What most people in Wilton don't know unless they read the study used as the "Bible" by these groups is that the deer count per acre is based upon an old aerial study of Greenwich and New Canaan, not Wilton! They attempted to locate and count deer by air and then did an estimate based upon acreage. On that misguided bit of an old study, the campaign to shoot deer in Wilton took off even to the point of going for the does (that's female or mother deers). Now I am not saying that deer eating our landscape plantings is a good thing nor are cars colliding with deer that have no idea what a car is or how fast it is going. But the incidence of deer-car accidents had decreased considerably over the past ten years. I might add that with an entire wooded area down behind my home we used to have a herd of about twelve deer that took a pathway through those woods. Now if we see more than two deer a week that is amazing. All it took was once seeing a mother deer nursing her two fawns at the end of my rear lawn to convince me that we can live with what nature (God etc.) intended to live also on their land which we have developed homes upon here in Wilton.
EMR June 21, 2012 at 12:25 PM
No deer means hungrier coyotes that will feed on domestic animals such as cats and small dogs. Have you seen the missing posters all over town? As to Bill Brennan's floral garden and environmental landscape estimate of 4.3 million, a simple call to a nursery would cost $95.00 for deer repellant. I am a hunter but this is going extreme now. There are no deer left to hunt!
Dan Beyer June 21, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Yes this is a very "controversial" issue, but management is required. Deer have exceeded Fairfield county's carrying capacity for years, although it is getting better with all of the management efforts, but it is a slow process. If you are interested in having a hunter assist you on your property, please visit www.findahunter.com There is a list of suggested interview questions and more. Request that your hunter donate to the www.hunttofeed.com program and help those in need throughout our state with healthy, nutritious protein. This is a Win Win for the entire community.
Eustace Tilley June 21, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Hey, bloodshed is not nice...why not just tax the roaming deer and they will certainly flee to business and family friendly towns.
Jlo June 21, 2012 at 01:23 PM
There will still be plenty of ticks even if we thin out the deer population, so don't expect those costs to go down very much. I think EMR has a point too, lots of coyotes around here and with less deer they are going to be looking elsewhere for food. Milorganite works well for repelling them and is a fertilizer too. I put it on my lawn this spring and didn't see a deer come across it for months.
Lorna June 21, 2012 at 01:38 PM
The coyotes hunt smaller animals because they're easier to kill than deer. I have seen deer on a regular basis this spring, running across roads and fawns grazing right next to the pavement. The damage they have done to the understory of forests will be evident 30 years from now when varieties of trees and shrubs are dominated by invasives that deer don't eat, instead of oak saplings that don't make it to maturity.
Muskarat June 21, 2012 at 02:54 PM
I think it is we humans who have exceeded the carrying capacity of our local ecosystem. I wonder how we would match up against the deer if the same financial impact study was done on us.
Jlo June 21, 2012 at 05:11 PM
It would seem that just giving recreational hunters more access might be a cheaper and easier alternative to throwing money at professionals to do the same thing. At least the rec guys would take the carcasses home and put them to use.
Elyse June 21, 2012 at 07:12 PM
The pic of the deer is perfect for this article. I too would be shocked at being called "expensive, non-taxpaying itinerants". We tend to see more deer as Fairfield County is overpopulated-with people. Over the decades I've watched many wooded areas sold & huge houses & 'pristine' yards put in. Landscaping-Animals do not recognize your ownership of what has been land over which they historically migrate. Also, stop planting what deer love to eat. Research before you plant. No town is responsible (financially or otherwise) for someone's personal landscaping being eaten by a wild animal. Deer vs. car-it happens. Many people are also ignorant of the fact that deer (except for bucks) rarely travel alone. They come in groups. Coyotes-smart, opportunistic predators. Yes, they do hunt & kill deer, but Fido/Fluffy, if let outside to roam, are much easier prey to catch. Hawks can pluck up tiny dogs as well. Ticks-you can bump off every deer in CT & still have deer ticks. Mice are the primary reservoir for deer ticks. You can pesticide your yard to bits but in doing so it will eventually wreak havoc with the ecosystem. People kill off mosquito larvae for fear of West Nile, & that application, ironically, can kill off amphibians, one of the primary devourers of mosquitoes which carry West Nile. Hunting – I have nothing against responsible hunting in which all regulations are followed & all animals (unless diseased) are utilized (as in eaten).
harpers June 22, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Obama looks like a deer. . . . Same stare in the headlight eyes when questioned without his T,P.
Joe McCarthy June 22, 2012 at 06:01 AM
It's terrible, we were here first. These deer come through our borders, illegally, to seek the landscapes and opportunities that we have worked hard for. They introduce deer-related drug and gun violence, and they don't even bother to speak our language! No amnesty for deer!
Jim Pickering June 22, 2012 at 12:15 PM
There is a old blue laws that does not allow hunting on Sunday's and holiday's. In the article it stated Saturday.
Alexander Davis July 23, 2012 at 02:03 AM
On Monhegan Island Maine they ended their Lyme disease epidemic by getting rid of the deer. This works because deer are key to the tick's life cycle. Adult egg-laying ticks must feed on a large mammal, and 90-95% feed on deer. They will not feed on rodents. Only immature forms of ticks will feed on rodents. Rodents alone cannot sustain the tick life cycle.
Jim Pickering August 10, 2012 at 03:51 AM
In order to have a controlled hunt in Wilton the committee should propose a earn a buck tag. If a hunter harvests a doe or two then he or she can receive a buck tag. This is done in many areas that are trying to control the deer herd. Many hunters are trophy hunters and they look for a large antlered deer to harvest before taking a doe.
Amo Probus August 10, 2012 at 09:21 AM
Anyone remember the deer incident at the village market some years ago? Seems a deer wandered into the store...maybe heading to the veggies...someone called 911 but the deer was gone by the time the police arrived. The butcher was smiling.
Chris December 03, 2012 at 08:35 PM
I was just hiking in Wilton on Saturday and it seems Ms Sesto has succeeded in closing vast areas of the public lands AND privately owned preserves of the town for almost two months just in case a hunter decides to go out on that day. This is simply ridiculous. For example, using her density data, there are about 10 deer in the 70 acre Gregg preserve. Why does it need to be closed to the public for over 40 days? I'll bet there are hunters there on maybe five or six of those days at most. The 1,800 acre Devil's Den Preserve in Weston is closed for less the three weeks and never on weekends. Other towns only close properties in the early mornings, when hunters actually have a chance of harvesting a deer. I'm only guessing at exactly what properties are closed when because despite volumes of information on their website on the benefits of expanding hunting nobody bothered to post the 2012 closing dates online, you have to drive to the property only to discover it is closed. This seems like a deliberate and cynical move, since this information was available in other years. It's a beautiful day in Wilton today, yet these properties are off-limits to the public. She should be ashamed and the people in Wilton who enjoy the outdoors should be raising holy hell about it.


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