Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Town-Sponsored Deer Hunt in Greenwich

Deer are a major environmental problem -- perhaps the major unacknowledged problem in the region. They are so numerous that their browsing has changed the composition of the forest. In my town -- and this is based only on my memory -- we've gone from having forest floors covered with wildflowers in May and June to essentially having no wildflowers, in just 20 years. Trout lily, wood anemone, pink lady's-slippers, hepatica -- gone. We have fewer ovenbirds and rufous-sided towhees perhaps because deer have eaten the understory they nest in or use for cover.

Greenwich is trying to do something about it, and their experiment bears watching. The town's Representative Town Meeting voted last night to hire sharpshooters to kill deer in three town parks in February. The proposal apparently needs only a permit from the state DEP to proceed. Greenwich would then be the first town in Connnecticut to undertake a deer hunt.
Will it work? The argument against any individual town tackling the deer problem on its own is that killing 20 or 40 or even 100 deer in an area will create a vacuum into which deer from other areas will move and thrive.

This story in the Greenwich Time gives no indication of how many deer they think they're going to kill in Greenwich. But if the hunt proceeds successfully, it might encourage neighboring towns to do the same. So maybe Greenwich's decision is a first step. Just as likely it will bring out animal rights protesters to disrupt the hunt.

(The Representative Town Meeting, by the way, is a descendant of the old fashioned New England town meeting, and it makes Greenwich just about the most democratic place around. The RTM is essentially a local legislature, with 230 members from 12 districts, representing 60,000 town residents.)


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