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Pound Ridge Renews Deer Management Plan

POUND RIDGE, N.Y. – The Pound Ridge Town Board officially approved the continuance of the town’s Deer Management Program at its meeting this week.

The board voted 3-1 to continue the program, which is now entering its seventh year.  Council Member Dan Paschkes was absent from the meeting and the lone dissenter was Council Member Ali Boak, who cited ethical reasons for her “no” vote.

“This is not a shot at how the program is managed,” she said. “I am just morally opposed to killing animals. It’s a personal thing.”

The Town Board proposed the Deer Management Program in 2005 after a review by local environmental groups. The idea was to find a way to cull the deer herd in Pound Ridge on a limited basis. It was decided that the police department, under the direction of the Town Board and with input from the Deer Management Committee, State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Pound Ridge Conservation Board, would operate the program and maintain records.

Deputy Supervisor John Powers and Police Chief David Ryan both gave reports to the Town Board on how the program fared in 2011, noting that the biggest problem facing the Deer Management Committee was getting accurate counts, which are necessary to determine if the program is successfully culling deer herds.

“Numbers are what motivate us,” said Ryan, who pointed out that the program has taken 400 deer over the past six years. “We are trying to cull to create a healthy herd and bring the doe/buck ratio into a healthy balance. But right now, if someone asks where we are in the program, I can’t really tell them.”

Ryan said this year the Deer Management Committee will use multiple techniques to count deer in hopes of getting a more accurate reading. One technique uses a formula provided by the Department of Environmental Conservation and involves taking photographs along known deer paths.

“We use the photos to see if there is a regeneration of [plant] growth in these areas,” the chief said. The growth of certain plants helps observers to determine the deer’s feeding patterns.

Deer pellet counts will also be used, and the committee is also looking into possible flyovers to photograph deer movement.

Ryan said despite the committee’s struggle to get an accurate grip on the deer count, it was important to move forward.

“We can’t stop, because what we did change would stop and it would catch back up,” he said. “Going forward, we just have to keep culling.”

Ryan said that improving the skills of the hunters, who are restricted to using bows, is also a key to improving the culling. He said he’d like to see the successful veteran hunters mentor those with less experience.

“We need to get the most productivity out of our hunters,” he said. “But some don’t want to learn. I don’t know – maybe it’s an ego thing. But we are working hard to make sure our hunters are well-prepared. We have to remember that this is not a hunting program, it’s an environmental program.”

The only significant change to this year’s program, Ryan noted, is that the DEC has pushed the opening of the season up from Oct. 15 to Oct. 1. It ends Dec. 31.

“I think this is a highly critical program,” said Council Member Peter Falco, after voting to approve it. “It’s been a model for a lot of other towns in the county.”

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