Doubts about deer economic study
September 2, 2010
Stamford Advocate Editorial

The “Economic Impact of Deer Overpopulation in Fairfield County, CT” presents some staggering conclusions.

People in Greenwich collectively are out more than $15 million a year because of deer, the study claims. The vast majority of that is due to the cost of environmental and landscaping damage, but also costs associated with Lyme disease and auto accidents.

The figure in Stamford is $11.3 million, also mostly due to environmental and landscaping damage.

Forgive us for being cynical, however.

Why? For starters, the study was commissioned by several groups, including the Fairfield County Municipal Deer Management Alliance, that are strong advocates for tougher deer-management policies — which almost always means mass killings of the animals.

Then there is the methodology of the study itself. According to the two researchers at New York Medical College who performed the study, data were based in part on a “comprehensive” 2003 survey of residents in Bernards Township, New Jersey.

Call us ignorant about methodologies of academic studies, but if we ever base policy on survey numbers, let’s make sure they are our own, not derived from somewhere else.

Plus, when we looked at the New Jersey study, it revealed that its findings were based on 775 responses. Bernards Township is a community of nearly 24,000 residences. Again, call us ignorant, but that does not sound “comprehensive” to us.

With all that said, it is true that many, many people in Fairfield County often pay large amounts to replace landscaping destroyed by deer. We do not believe that justifies mass killings of the animals, however.

Lyme disease is a more serious matter by far, and a greater problem in Connecticut than anywhere else. But if the most often quoted numbers are to be trusted, hunting will not solve the problem.

According to officials in both Stamford and Greenwich, there are roughly 60 deer per square mile in both municipalities. Groups like the Deer Management Alliance hold that the number has to be reduced to 10-12 per square mile to prevent Lyme disease. That would mean in these two communities alone, some 5,700 deer would need to be slaughtered — and that’s without factoring in their reproduction rate. Does anyone want to see that happen?

How can we significantly reduce Lyme disease? There are several theories, and frankly, we’re not sure what the answer is. But it’s not a problem we are going to kill our way out of.