What is WildlifeEducationCoalition.org?
We are a group of concerned citizens from Fairfield County, Connecticut who support effective, science-based solutions to reducing human conflict with wildlife. Presently, we are focused on the deer “management” issue that is being discussed by nearly every town in Fairfield County.
Our group and this website function as a central point of information and public communication for those in our community who are concerned that deer culls in Fairfield County will lead to costly, multi-year, inhumane programs that are neither effective, safe, NOR science-based, and may ultimately lead to reducing our property values and ability to enjoy our open spaces and wildlife. This web site was created to encourage more people to become informed and involved in spreading community awareness, to engage in the deer "debate," by educating themselves on the issues, and to help generate effective, long term solutions that will offer the best outcome for all involved.
For more information, email us at:
Why was WildlifeEducationCoaltion.org formed?
The WildlifeEducationCoalition.org was formed in response to the plan by Newtown town officials to establish a Task Force on Deer Management at the urging of members of the Newtown Lyme disease Task Force and the Fairfield County Municipal Deer Management Alliance (FCMDMA) (see also origins of committee). Because the presentations in favor of deer culling by these groups were, in our view, biased and factually incorrect, WildlifeEducationCoalition.org members thought it was important to provide a clearinghouse to set forth the information that has been omitted by the anti-deer groups.
The statements made by various Lyme disease Task Force members and FCMDMA representatives in these meetings (along with their other public comments) make clear that they have a strong bias in favor of killing substantial numbers of deer without further study of the issues involved, and that they propose to do so on open space land, which may include Fairfield Hills. We do not question the motives of these groups, but it appears that their zeal to combat the problems often attributed to deer have caused them to overlook or gloss over the material factual flaws in their position.
The arguments offered by the Lyme disease Task Force and FCMDMA in support of a deer killing program exhibit a pattern of exaggeration, misinformation, and faulty reasoning (statements documented in the Board of Selectmen Meeting Minutes).
Several of the Lyme disease Task Force and FCMDMA members have been appointed to the Tick Borne Disease Action Committee and consistently attempt to steer the focus of the meetings toward killing deer.
The fact is that numerous towns in Connecticut and elsewhere have already embarked down the road proposed by the FCMDMA, and there is no evidence from any of these programs that they accomplish a reduction in tick borne disease.
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Misinformation given to the Board of Selectman.
We challenge the following statements that were made to the Board of Selectman on October 21, 2008, which led to the formation of the Deer Management Task Force (since renamed Lyme and Tick Borne Disease Action Committee):
Newtown Public Health Director: Deer are the key to the life cycle of the tick, they are the host that allow the ticks to become so abundant.
FACT: White footed mice are a much more significant part of the tick life cycle because they become infected with Lyme disease and therefore allow the causative organism to remain viable. Deer do not become infected with Lyme disease and are merely a dilution host. Ticks found on deer are much less likely to be infected with the Lyme disease agent than those found on in the leaf litter on the forest floor. Risk of exposure to Lyme disease correlates most closely with the number of the small mammal hosts that the immature tick stages feed upon, and with variations in the food sources for these mammals. In some cases, localized absence of deer increases tick feeding on rodents, leading to a potential increased incidence of Lyme disease. In recent studies, done in various communities all over CT, to map numbers of deer and incidence of human Lyme disease, no correlation was found between the two numbers (Unpublished data from
Yale University.) Sources: Localized Deer Absence Leads to Tick Amplification, Ecology, 87(8), 2006, pp. 1981–1986, by S. Perkins, I. Cattadori, V. Tagliapietra, A. Rizzoli, and P. Hudson. Incompetence of deer as reservoirs of the Lyme disease spirochete, Telford SR 3rd, Mather TN, Moore SI, Wilson ML, Spielman A.
Department of Tropical Public Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.PMID: 3400797 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]. See also FAQs on this website.
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Lyme disease task force member statement at BOS meeting: Newtown has both a Lyme disease problem and a deer overpopulation problem.
FACT: We do not dispute that Lyme disease is a concern for everyone. But there is no evidence that deer are overpopulated in Newtown or that Newtown is lagging behind the efforts of other towns to “manage” their deer population. In fact, more deer are killed by hunters in Newtown than in any other town in Connecticut per year. While the concept of killing some deer because of increased total numbers of deer and increased case of Lyme disease may be intuitively appealing, it has no basis in fact.
Newtown has seen a rapid increase in construction. Deer live at the forest edge and by subdividing land we have created more forest edge. By having many houses with deer attracting vegetation close together, we have literally invited the deer in. It is no wonder there is a marked increase in the visibility of deer in our community. See also FAQs on this website.
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Lyme disease task force member statement at BOS meeting: The appropriate guideline would be 10-12 deer per square mile, Newtown has up to 80 deer per square mile.
FACT: Every town that is ecologically open like Newtown that has tried to get rid of Lyme disease by killing deer has never been able to get deer densities low enough, even towns with very aggressive deer reduction efforts. In Newtown, the CT DEP estimates we have 65-70 deer per square mile. Scientists who claim that communities can reduce tick-borne illness by reducing deer also state that you have to get deer densities to 10-20 deer per square mile (or lower) in order to affect tick rates. Since Newtown is 63 square miles in area, that means that the estimate is 4410 deer in Newtown. To get to 10 deer per square mile, the herd would have to be reduced to 630 deer, which means that 3780 deer would have to be killed in Newtown. Given the animal’s rapid reproduction rates after hunting has occurred, the fact that there’s very little public land on which hunting is even a possibility in Newtown (some public land has no-hunting deed restrictions), that you’re not likely to get all the private landowners to agree to hunting, and that hunting is on the decline, you can get some hunters to come out to kill the deer for free but never enough to reduce the herd by a net 3,000+ deer.
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Lyme disease task force member statement at BOS meeting: Lyme Disease increased by 71% in CT from 2006 to 2007.
FACT: This statement is incorrect. The increase was due to a change in the way the Connecticut Dept. of Public Health tracks data. (Sources: Connecticut DPH and Connecticut DPH
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Lyme disease task force member statement at BOS meeting: There are now more tick borne diseases, including ehrlichiosis, babesiois as well as bartonella; you can get two or more diseases from a single tick bite.
FACT: This is true. Disease patterns always change over time and new diseases appear. One reason for this is a normal cycle of nature, but a good deal of it is because extensive suburban development. It is important to note that some of these disease, such as ehrichiosis, are also carried by common dog ticks. See also FAQs on this website.
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Lyme disease task force member statement at BOS meeting: Overpopulation also means that deer eventually reach mass starvation levels.
FACT: This is not how nature works. If it were true we would see mass starvation of squirrels, mice and other seemingly overpopulated animals. There is no evidence that deer are starving anywhere in Fairfield County, nor that they will. In fact, all reports from the CT DEP uggest that the deer population in our community has been stable for nearly a decade. See also FAQs on this website.
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Lyme disease task force member statement at BOS meeting: “It’s time to act, not study.”
FACT: We strongly disagree. There are solid scientific data that refute the idea that culling deer reduces Lyme disease or deer populations long term. Claiming that culling will solve the problem does a disservice to those with Lyme disease and those yet to contract it.
Lyme disease task force member statement at BOS meeting:Overpopulation causes automobile accidents, damage backyard plants and shrubs and damage to the woodlands.
FACT: Deer/Car Collisions. Deer are not irresistibly drawn to busy roads and terrifying, speeding cars and lights. When given the alternative, deer stay as far clear of highways and busy roads as possible. The pace of construction in our community is pushing deer and other wildlife out of their natural habitats and into our streets.
The speed limit in much of Newtown is 30mph—a speed that, if respected, would make accidents involving serious human injury unlikely.
A recent study points to a dramatic increase of deer-car collision on opening day of hunting season, which is statistically linked to nothing other than hunting.
Gardens: Residents are understandably distressed over deer browse damage to their gardens. The good news is that there are a number of effective and affordable sprays, deer resistant plants, and fencing available at gardening centers. Killing some deer will not stop the remaining deer from eating your plants.
Forest regeneration: “The interrelated effects of herbivory by various mammals, acid rain, European earthworms, pollutants, and other factors all impact forest succession and plants species diversity. It is easy to point the finger at the visible culprit [deer] while more complex, cumulative, yet less visible factors aren’t even called on the carpet.” Laura Simon, Letter to Editor, Newtown Bee, November 17, 2008.
A recent study in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park actually found that deer were having a positive impact on the ecosystem. (source: Katherine Greenwald, Ohio State University, October 2008, OSU researchers find grazing ruminants aid forest ecosystem)
See also FAQs on this website.
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Is WildlifeEducationCoalition.org an anti-hunting, animal-rights extremist group?
We do not have a position as a coalition either opposed to or in favor of sport hunting.
We agree with the majority in America that animal protection issues should be taken seriously rather than being dismissed as an irrelevant, “emotional” concern. There may be circumstances where the facts justify killing deer or other wildlife. But we believe that the welfare of the animals concerned is a meaningful consideration in the analysis, and that the burden of proof is on those who favor destroying wildlife.
We are opposed to misleading public statements that advocate for deer culls as an effective strategy for reducing Lyme disease when scientific evidence clearly shows that killing deer in mainland communities will not lower the incidence of this disease.
We are opposed to deer culls on open space land because we believe it puts the lives of our children, our families and our pets in danger.