Deer Problem - Rochester, NY area

The deer issue as it pertains to the Rochester, NY area. (Odocoileus virginiamus) Deer populations will increase with Climate Change. Is giving out more deer permits the answer?

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Page Contents:  Deer problem and Climate Change | Deer Problem NewsLinks | Information | Resources


"Historically, the majority of the car-deer accidents happen between 5:30 and 7:30 a.m. or between 5:30 and 8 p.m. — the hours that coincide with dawn and dusk as well as the times the most cars are on the road." --DEC.

Turn in Poachers and Polluters (TIPP) Hotline DEC encourages anyone with information on environmental crimes and violations are urged to call its 24-hour hotline, 1-800-TIPP-DEC or 1-800-847-7332. Callers may request to file complaints anonymously. Deer and Bear Hunting - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation


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Blasting Deer  

There are times, admittedly, when a chronic problem gets solved by the perfect solution--a clever, easy answer costing almost nothing and profitable to boot.  The Expanded Bottle bill (bill no) is an example. It seeks to keep water and juice containers off the roadside and out of the landfills.  Providing a return on these items and reconstituting spent containers into raw materials for new products is an incentive to make our economy work for our environment. Elegant. The only ones against this proposal are the companies that are presently enjoying a boon on the limited returnable we recycle now by being able to keep our money from bottles not returned.  That godsend would stop with the new bill.  

DeerAnother seemingly perfect solution is solving the deer problem by instituting the year-round hunting of deer. Neat.  It grabs many as the perfect solution to a major nuisance. I've hit a couple of deer myself driving in the county late into the night.  Think of it: We would reduce a major nuisance by allowing hunters to hunt their favorite quarry all year long, which would add to the state coffers in license fees and guns and bullets and save the farming industry that might (as the article suggests) metamorphose into malls.  

But, if you think about it, year-round hunting is as dubious an answer to the deer problem as the crow shoot is outside of Syracuse.  There a tavern hosts a yearly crow shoot outside the city to ostensibly stem the city crow population.  Yet, however satisfying to the shooters, blasting country crows do not reduce the city crow numbers.  It's just a lame excuse to have fun.   

Seriously, there is a practical problem with year-round deer hunting, an ethical qualm and a major environmental drawback with this idea.  First, spring and summer hikers and campers (paying tourists) are not going to feel comfortable having to compete with forest space with armed hunters.  Secondly, the questionable ethics of kidding oneself that killing deer all year round is fulfilling a higher goal of saving the environment is so transparent as to be self-evident.  Let's be honest, hunting is a sport--we don't need the meat.  From the animal activist’s view, deer mean us no harm, and there is a case to be made that we demean ourselves pleasuring in the slaughtering of a harmless.    Then, there is the problem of trying to control our environment with a bullet. 

The destruction of farm goods by deer (80%, the aforementioned article mentions sounds wildly high) and other problems related to deer have to be placed in the context of a complete environmental profile.  In other words, the species in question has shaped and been shaped by our environment It plays a vital role in our environment, animals and plant life, or it wouldn't have flourished so well in it.  Before blasting them into extinction like we did many other species we targeted for removal we ought to gain a complete picture of their role in the very surroundings that keep us alive. 

Deer and Climate Change

New York State deer populations are predicted to grow as Climate Change changes our environment. Is just giving out more deer hunting permits the answer to this problem?

  • Increasing Deer Populations High deer populations in many areas of New York State cause concern for resource managers, farmers, and homeowners. In addition to damage caused to residential landscape plants and agricultural crops, selective feeding of white-tailed deer alters plant community structure and can negatively affect the health and diversity of forests and other natural areas. Through their direct effects on plants, deer have cascading effects on many other wildlife species. Many of the preferred forage species of deer, such as sugar maple and oaks, are valued for timber or as foodproducing trees for wildlife. Deer also feed on wildflowers like trillium and lady slipper, but they tend to avoid ferns, invasive species like garlic mustard and barberry, and native tree species such as American beech and striped maple. Selective feeding of deer has led to dominance of ferns and grasses (Horsley and Marquis, 1983), along with invasive species and monocultures of beech in some New York forests (Stromayer and Warren, 1997). Over-browsing by deer leads to loss of forest understory vegetation that is an important habitat and food source for many songbirds and other forest wildlife.  (Pages 171/172 Report 11-18 Response to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID)Responding to Climate Change in New York state: the ClimAid integrated assessment for effective Climate Change adaptation in New York state (November 2011)

The latest information on the Deer Problem issue in our area

  • The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation strongly advises motorists to take the following precautions to prevent deer-vehicle collisions:
    • Use extreme caution when driving at dawn or dusk, especially from late October through December and when visibility is poor;
    • Slow down when approaching deer are standing near the roadside, since they may bolt at the last minute as a car comes closer, often sprinting onto the road;
    • If you see a deer cross the road, be alert for others that may follow;
    • Use flashers of a headlight signal to warn other drivers when you spot deer near the road;
    • Be alert and use extreme caution when traveling through deer crossing areas, which are usually marked with road signs.
  • Find out about the new deer disease moving across New York State: Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease in New York State - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation "Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) is the most important infectious viral disease among white-tailed deer. The landmark outbreak of the virus was identified and described in New Jersey in 1955. It occurs every year in many southeastern states and has been recently reported throughout the mid-Atlantic. In states where the disease has been detected, it has not had a significant negative impact on the long-term health of the deer herd. It tends to infect only localized pockets of animals within a geographic area."
  • Current Situation Regarding Chronic Wasting Disease The state Departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Agriculture and Markets (DAM), and Health (DOH), together with the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) are cooperating to develop a comprehensive statewide response to the threat of CWD. These agencies are actively participating together with other agencies and organizations in nationwide efforts to learn more about this disease and to prevent its spread. --from New York State Department of Environmental Conservation - Protecting NY's Environment and Managing its Natural Resources
  • Chronic Wasting Disease
  • NYS DEC Deer Management Program New Yorkers greatly appreciate white-tailed deer. People enjoy them in many ways. However, deer often cause problems for farmers, homeowners and foresters and can cause road hazards. If not properly managed, deer numbers can increase dramatically. This increases problems for people and impairs the condition of the deer. It also damages the habitat of deer and other wildlife. The Department of Environmental Conservation tries to manage deer numbers. The goal is to balance deer with their habitat, human land uses and recreational interests. Ecological concerns and the needs of landowners, hunters, and other interest groups must be considered. How does DEC manage deer? How are decisions made about how many deer there should be? This website gives some basics on New York's deer management program.
  • Deer Venison Donation Program You've heard the story, more deer every year, fewer hunters, more crop damage, more car-deer collisions . . . and even more needy. Yes, more needy.
  • Venison Donation Coalition A conservative estimate of more than 1,000,000 whitetail deer, roam New York State, according to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation's' Bureau of Wildlife. We count on hunters’ harvest to maintain healthy herds and to minimize the amount of annual deer damage. The deer hunter’s and farmers harvest can be donated, processed and distributed to help feed the hungry throughout New York State. Because donated deer must be professionally processed, the Venison Donation Coalition has coordinated a program where legally tagged and properly field-dressed deer can be taken to participating no cost to the hunter or farmer.
  • Odocoileus virginianus (Zimmermann, 1780) - Encyclopedia of Life "The White-tailed Deer is distinguished from the Mule Deer by the smaller size of its ears, the color of its tail, and most strikingly, by antler shape. In Whitetails, the main beam of the antlers grows forward rather than upwards, and each tine develops as its own separate branch rather than being split into a forked pair. The two species also run differently when they are alarmed. Mule Deer stot, a boing-boing-boing motion in which all four feet leave and hit the ground with each bound, whereas White-tailed Deer spring forward, pushing off with their hind legs and landing on their front feet. Today White-tails are very widespread in North America: there may be as many as 15 million in the United States. These Deer are adaptable browsers, feeding on leaves, twigs, shoots, acorns, berries, and seeds, and they also graze on grasses and herbs. In areas where they live alongside Mule Deer, the species naturally separate ecologically, the Whitetails staying closer to moist streams and bottomlands, the Mule Deer preferring drier, upland places. " Encyclopedia of Life


A tame deer feeding near Ontario Lake near the Port of Rochester. Photo by Frank J. Regan.
This is an environmental issue that should be on our radar.  Chronic wasting disease in our local deer population is very low, but it’s a deer disease that has no cure.  This used to be a deer disease of deer in the West, but it is spreading. Check here to find out the state of Chronic wasting disease in our region’s deer: Status of Chronic Wasting Disease in NY - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation “To date, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has received confirmation of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) from two wild white-tailed deer sampled in central New York.”

The Mississippi not a barrier to deer disease A recently completed genetic study of deer in Wisconsin and Iowa indicates that the Mississippi River does not present much of a barrier to the spread of deadly chronic wasting disease. "There might as well not be a river there" for all the good it does in separating Wisconsin deer, which are infected with chronic wasting disease, and Iowa deer, which have yet to test positive for the fatal neurological ailment, said Krista Lang, an Iowa State University graduate student who wrote her master's thesis on the two-year research project. (July 12, 2010) Quad-City Times: Quad Cities, IA/IL

(Above scripts from Dynamic Drive)

Resources for the Deer Problem issue in our area

  • The Future of Deer Hunting In New York State Summary of Meetings DEC's Bureau of Wildlife initiated an effort in Spring 2000 to consider changes to help maintain an effective deer management program. --NYS DEC
  • The Deer Management Simulator or DMS is a general, yet powerful simulation tool developed for the National Park Service by Ken L. Risenhoover and H. Brian Underwood (USGS) and was specifically designed to assist natural resource specialists attempting to manage problems relating to overabundant ungulate populations.
  • Whitetails on the Web The white-tailed deer is the most popular big game animal in North America. This page is dedicated to those who spend countless hours in the field, year after year, in a lifetime of study of these cunning masters of elusiveness.
  • Keys for Successful Policy by Daniel J. Decker and Lisa C. Chase. "Problems addressed in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginiamus) management have changed dramatically during the twentieth century. The need for protection and restoration has passed, as white-tailed deer have emerged from scarcity to achieve overabundance. Wildlife managers now commonly attempt to reduce conflicts between people and deer inhabiting areas where deer were scarce a decade or two ago.
  • Deer Search is a private organization that tracks wounded deer and bear with leashed
    tracking dogs. Most of us are hunters and our goal is to reduce crippling losses during hunting season. The majority of us live in New York State and are members of one of the two New York chapters of Deer Search. We also have out of state members who track under licenses and rules issued by their own state.
  • Deer_Paper Submitted for publication by the VA/WV Horticultural Society. Presented at the Annual Meeting in Roanoke, Virginia on January 12, 1999 by: Jonathan S. Kays, Regional Extension Specialist-Natural Resources, University of Maryland Cooperative Extension When deer significantly damage crops, forests, or vehicles, they are considered to be a nuisance. The best approach to control deer damage is an integrated pest management (IPM) plan, which includes careful monitoring of any one, or combination of, the following strategies: population management, fencing, repellents, or vegetation management. Although nonlethal techniques can help minimize damage caused by deer in any one area, the lack of any population control will likely result in an increasing population and the problems associated with this increase. Controlling deer damage requires a comprehensive program.
  •  Chronic Waste Disease Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) of deer and elk. To date, this disease has been found only in cervids (members of the deer family) in North America. First recognized as a clinical "wasting" syndrome in 1967 in mule deer in a wildlife research facility in northern Colorado, it was identified as a TSE in 1978. CWD is typified by chronic weight loss leading to death. There is no known relationship between CWD and any other TSE of animals or people --from USDA. United States Department of Agriculture's Home Page
  • Chronic Wasting Disease Information Center - NGPC
  • Chronic Wasting Disease This site is a joint project of the Boone and Crockett Club, Mule Deer Foundation, and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. These non-profit wildlife conservation organizations formed the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance in January 2002 to address CWD. Other organizations have since joined the Alliance.