WESTON, Conn. -- The Nature Conservancy is about to begin its annual controlled deer hunt at Devil's Den Preserve in Weston and Redding, which will close all trails to hikers on certain days.
"The purpose of the controlled hunt, which has been held each fall since 2001, is to help reduce deer overpopulation and its negative impacts," the Nature Conservancy website says.
Devil’s Den will be closed to visitors on the designated controlled hunting days, and signs will be posted at all public entrances to the preserve. The deer hunt is set for the following days:
- Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 20-21;
- Monday through Wednesday, Nov. 25 to 27;
- Monday through Thursday, Dec. 2 to 5; and
- Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 9 to 10.
"The deer management effort will only take place in select areas of the preserve's interior, away from the edges of the preserve and any neighboring residences," the Nature Conservancy said. "The conservancy is working with experienced sportsmen who have been recruited by Devil’s Den staff members and have knowledge of the preserve and local area.
"Venison obtained through this management activity will be donated to Hunters for the Hungry, a statewide nonprofit group that accepts donations of venison for distribution to local charities and food pantries."
The deer hunt is open during the state-designated shotgun and rifle hunting season that runs from Nov. 20 to Dec. 10.
"We are confident that our annual limited hunt, in combination with the increased deer management efforts regionally, will eventually maintain a sustainable level of resident deer at Devil’s Den and in much of the surrounding landscape of the Saugatuck Forest Lands, ultimately improving the ecological condition of these forest lands," the Nature Conservancy said.
The size of the deer herd in Fairfield County varies from town to town, but estimates of deer abundance from 2000 are in the range of 60 individuals per square mile, the highest of any county in Connecticut, the Nature Conservancy said.
The high density of deer in southwestern Connecticut is associated with a high incidence of deer-and-vehicle accidents and Lyme disease cases. The Nature Conservancy is also concerned about the ecological damage to the region’s forests caused by the excessive browsing of overabundant deer.
The Nature Conservancy launched its effort to manage deer at Devil’s Den Preserve in 2001 when the deer population was well beyond the capacity of the forest. The unnaturally large population of deer damaged the forest understory and contributed to the gradual loss of native flowering plants. Also, many tree species, especially the oaks, were unable to regenerate because the acorns and saplings were consumed by deer.
Deer management efforts have expanded throughout the region through the efforts of such conservation land managers as Aquarion Water Co.; Wilton Land Conservation Trust; the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection; the towns of Redding, Ridgefield, Wilton, and Weston; and the Nature Conservancy.
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