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
Deer-related damages associated with:
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.