If the City of Batavia is going to address the concerns of some residents about an apparent deer overpopulation, an expert told the City Council on Monday night, the solution will require study and consideration and will need to be an ongoing effort for many years to come.
"It's not something you can just do once," said Susan D. Booth-Binczik (top photo), a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. "The deer are not going to stop doing what they do. They're not going to go away. Whatever you do, you have to do it year after year. Otherwise, you're going to end up right back where you started."
City Council President Eugene Jankowski said the city will soon appoint members to a committee to study the issue and come up with a plan for the city to pursue.
Deer become a problem, Booth-Binczik said, when the populations in certain areas become too large. Besides destroying property and presenting a road hazard, they upset the balance of the natural habitat.
And population centers are a natural place for deer herds to grow and become comfortable.
"Deer do really well living with us -- they're in our neighborhoods because we've created sort of deer habitat," Booth-Binczik said. "There's plenty of food, a lot of it in our yards and gardens. There's plenty of the edge they like because we like patches of forest mixed in with our lawns and golf courses and there isn't a lot of mortality."
If there isn't a mortality rate of at least 30 percent per year, deer populations will grow, and left unchecked, a deer population in a particular area will double in size very two to three years.
Killing deer, preferably does, may be the most effective way to reduce the deer population.
Solutions range from efforts to encourage or enable hunting to culling.
Culling involves allowing hunters to kill deers outside the regular hunting regulations, such as out-of-season, at night, and with bait.
Or the city could become the lead agency -- or allow another organization to be it -- and work out rules and guidelines for hunters so hunters could more easily go after deer in and around the city. This would mean getting permission from property owners for hunters to go on their land to either hunt or retrieve dead deer.
"What the municipality can increase residents' comfort level with -- the idea of hunting in the community -- is to run what's called a controlled hunt," Booth-Binczik said. "This is just a way to formalize the ability of the local landowners have to set restrictions on hunters that they allow on their property."
Typically these programs only allow hunters to kill does but since most hunters want bucks for the trophy of antlers, the city could provide a hunter with a permit to kill a buck after first killing two or three does as an incentive to first hunt does.
Thinning deer herds is important not just for community residents, Booth-Binczik said, but for the entire ecosystem.
"They essentially eat all of the plants on the forest floor," she said. "So they reduce plant diversity by destroying habitat. They reduce wildlife diversity. And they also threaten the future existence of the forest because when a big tree dies and falls, there's nothing to replace it because the deer have eaten all the baby trees."