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Resident Puts Out Facts at Deer Hearing

When Westport resident Ellen Linker stepped to the microphone at Wednesday night's deer management public hearing, she was ready to set the record straight about deer-related car accidents in Westport.

"The Westport Police Department records indicate that there were 91 deer-related motor vehicle accidents in the past four years, from January 2007 to October 2010," said Linker, who spent a month analyzing police report data. "Of these 91 accidents involving deer, only one resulted in injury. There were no human fatalities."

Over this same four-year period, Linker said, police reports indicate there were 4,444 non-deer-related car accidents: 507 resulted in injuries and 11 resulted in deaths.

Linker conducted her research in response to a statement from Peter Knight, the lead signer of a petition requesting the town establish a deer management program. That petition had prompted three Representative Town Meeting committees to hold the hearing, the second on the issue.

She also analyzed car accident data from Wilton and Ridgefield over the past four years and found that in both towns the number of deer-related accidents was higher than in Westport.

"And Wilton and Ridgefield have very aggressive deer hunting programs to manage their deer populations," said Linker, suggesting that hunting is not a solution.

The spread of Lyme disease has also been cited as a concern with deer. Despite having the disease more than once, resident Elizabeth Lillien said she doesn't support deer hunting.

"I hope we can find a way to minimize the spread of this awful disease, but killing deer is not the solution," Lillien said, explaining that the deer tick that spreads Lyme has other hosts.

Another argument against hunting came from resident Daniel Katz. A gun owner, Katz said he's not against hunting. But because he can't imagine firearm hunting being approved, he's concerned that bow hunting might be considered.

"I'd like you to think about what a deer does when it's hit with an arrow. They don't drop dead. They run like hell to your yard and my yard," Katz said. "And my grandchildren see that and yours see the same thing. Think about that."

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