The City of Plainfield is moving ahead with a deer management operation that will begin on January 1 and end on February 17, 2018.
The operation comes in response to numerous and sustained complaints about hazardous driving conditions, health concerns stemming from Lyme disease and gardens being decimated by an overabundant deer population. The operation will take place in the Cushing Road Detention Basin bordered by Cushing Road and Terrill Road.
Forest ecologists recommend that white-tailed deer populations in Northeast hardwood forests should not exceed an overwintering density of 20 per square mile for deer browse not to impair forest health. A spotlight count around the Cushing Road Detention Basin on May 12, 2016, resulted in the observation of 14 deer, which equates to a density of between 40 and 84 deer per square mile. More recently, 37 deer were observed at one time within that same area. At 20 per square mile, this area should only support one deer.
Area residents have complained to City of Plainfield and County of Union officials about the impacts typical to deer overpopulation – destructive browsing of residential landscaping, a high incidence of deer-related motor vehicle accidents, fear of Lyme disease, and fecal droppings on lawn areas.
According to the Izaac Walton League of America which is an American environmental organization that promotes natural resource protection and outdoor recreation and is dedicated to conserving outdoor America for future generations; when wildlife is already at carrying capacity, "more" can be a disaster. Among the countless wild creatures hurt by overabundant deer are the deer themselves. Across vast expanses of their range, whitetails are sickly and scrawny.
Birds suffer as well. The U.S. Forest Service found that when deer exceed 20 per square mile, cerulean warblers, pewees, indigo buntings, least flycatchers, and yellow-billed cuckoos can no longer survive. At 38 deer per square mile, phoebes and even robins disappear. Ground nesters, including wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, wood-cock, ovenbirds, and whippoorwills, can nest successfully in ferns. But as adults, these birds need thick cover, so they take a massive hit from predators when deer denude the understory.
Each year, deer-vehicle collisions kill roughly 150 Americans and injure some 10,000 more. In suburbia, deer cause millions of dollars' worth of damage to gardens and ornamental shrubs. Lyme disease is now a pandemic in the East and upper Midwest. It is transmitted by black-legged ticks, whose abundance varies directly with the abundance of their deer hosts. In fact, evidence suggests that when deer populations are at natural densities, Lyme disease starts to fizzle out. In 2014, there were 33,461 cases of Lyme disease reported across the United States — up from about 1,500 in 1986. But the actual number was no doubt far higher because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 percent of Lyme disease cases go unreported.
In the 1980s, deer denuded the 2,100-acre Crane Estate — a diverse mix of salt marshes, islands, and undeveloped barrier beaches — 30 miles north of Boston. Vegetation loss was so extreme that dunes were blowing away. The property, owned by the Trustees of Reservations, was supposed to be a wildlife refuge. But about the only wildlife left were deer, with skin stretched over their ribs like canvas over Conestoga wagons.
When the Trustees proposed a public hunt, it was shouted down by neighbors who eventually affected a modest and inadvertent cull of their own by feeding the starving deer cabbages, squashes, and beet greens, thereby giving them fatal cases of gastroenteritis (deer diarrhea). At this point, the area had the highest incidence of Lyme disease on the planet, and after two-thirds of the neighbors became infected they decided to move ahead with the deer hunting operation. Hunters then reduced the deer population to a healthy, natural level. The greatest mistake ever made in wildlife management is allowing deer to overpopulate to the point they destroy the ecosystem they’re part of. (http://www.iwla.org/publications/outdoor-america/article/outdoor-america-2016-issue-1/the-dangers-of-too-many-deer)
The County of Union will utilize the assistance of the Oak Ridge Sportsmen’s Association to reduce the population of white-tailed deer in the Cushing Road Detention Basin in the hopes of achieving a reduced deer density and lessen impacts to the surrounding community.
"Ultimately we believe that this is the most efficient answer to the overflowing deer population. All the meat will be consumed, and we hope that the ecosystem of the area will regain some balance," said Mayor Adrian O. Mapp. "It is impossible to find a solution that will make everyone happy, but we took all factors into account before moving ahead with this program. We aim to be even-handed and fair at all times, and this was not a decision which was taken lightly. We do hope that those who are opposed to this program can at least understand the necessity of the action and realize that sometimes hard decisions have to made for the overall greater good of the City.”
DISPOSITION OF DEER
- Each harvested deer will be transported to a secure site where the hunter will eviscerate the deer.
- If a hunter wants to keep the deer carcass, he may do so. He can butcher the carcass himself or have it butchered professionally, at his own expense.
- If no hunter wants to keep the carcass, he may donate it to the Hunters Helping the Hungry Program through a State-approved butcher.
- If the deer carcasses are donated to a food bank through a State-approved butcher, the cost of butchering will be paid by the Oak Ridge Sportsmen's Association to the Hunters Helping the Hungry program.
On a daily basis, the Oak Ridge Sportsmen's Association will provide a report to the County that summarizes the results of deer management activity on the previous day. At a minimum, including, the number of Association members who hunted, the hours that they hunted, the number of deer killed, the sex of those deer, and the disposition of the carcasses.