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Easton's Deer Problems Carry Heavy Costs

When deer go to battle against a moving vehicle, deciding the winner depends on your perspective. In Easton, deer problems cost each resident $520 per year – the second highest per capita rate in Fairfield County, according to a study released in August.

Deer were not only responsible for nearly $1 million in motor vehicle damages in 2009, they also caused nearly $2 million in damages to residents' gardens and contributed almost $600,000 in health costs associated with Lyme disease, according to the report.

Easton police recorded more than 80 deer-related incidents last year, ranging from car-versus-deer reports to lost dogs that caught a whiff and took off into the woods in hot pursuit of an elusive white-tail.

However, the number of actual vehicle accidents involving deer may be five times as high as police records indicate, says Howard Kilpatrick of the state Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP recently began programs that improve opportunities for hunters to kill more deer, and hunters have helped to decrease the number of deer road kills in Fairfield County.

Many hunters view the issue from a different perspective and say the DEP has grown too lenient by allowing too many deer to be killed. On the Bowsite.com chat forum, members engaged in debate over whether hunters should kill as many deer as they want or voluntarily conserve the population.

To minimize Lyme disease, the DEP recommends the density of deer populations not to exceed 10 per square mile. Although Easton's deer population has declined dramatically over the years, it is still roughly three times that recommendation.

Connecticut has the highest rate of Lyme disease in the country, and Fairfield County has more incidents that any other county in the nation, the study said.

The study was prepared by the New York Medical College and was sponsored by the Fairfield County Municipal Deer Management Alliance in cooperation with the Connecticut Coalition to End Lyme Disease and Connecticut Audubon.

Is the deer population a problem, or should we work harder to conserve their numbers?

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