Town Searches to Limit Deer Population


Keri Wiginton

Michael Mathis, Staff Writer

Five hundred eighty-nine deer roam the Westport area, according to an aerial survey of Westport done on March 10, 2013 by Vision Air Research, Inc. From spreading diseases to causing car accidents, the deer overpopulation in Westport has become a much talked-about issue, and the town is looking for ways to cut the numbers.

At the forefront of this effort, deep within the confines of Town Hall, is the Deer Management Committee.

The Deer Management Committee, made up of seven Westporters, was created by First Selectman Gordon Joseloff in January to study the deer dilemma and solutions and report back to him. The members come from all walks of life, from construction workers to financial executives to veterinarians.

Education is one solution the group proposes. Committee member Susan Pike said that although the issue is well-known, she still believes people need to be more aware of the issue.

“People are interested, but part of the population is oblivious,” the councilwoman said.

Their draft report suggests producing Lyme disease awareness pamphlets, emphasizing deer awareness in Westport’s Driver Education, and promoting increased fencing to keep deer off property.

The report also proposes using Porzine Zona Pellucida, or PZP, immunocontraceptives to sterilize deer. The contraceptive program, developed by Alan Rutberg, a research-assistant professor at the Tufts-Cummings School for Veterinary Medicine, is experimental, but Rutberg believes that PZP is safe, according to an article from Westport News.

Nonetheless, some Staples students, including Jacqueline Sussman ’16, oppose the idea.

“The deer should be able to live freely, and limiting their population seems almost like animal abuse. They should just leave them alone,” she said.

Despite all of their proposed changes, the committee hasn’t recommended hunting, believing it unnecessary. In the past, there has been controversy over whether the policy should be reinstated. In 2011, Town Hall received a pro-hunting petition with about 270 signatures as well as an anti-hunting petition with about 900 signatures.

That controversy has filtered through the halls of Staples. Ronan May ’15 favors hunting for Westport.

“I don’t see why they can’t just hunt a few. [It] could be faster, and, that way, we don’t waste a perfectly good deer,” he said.

On the other side, Bryan Gannon ’14 opposes a hunting policy.

“Don’t hunt and kill animals just because they cross roads and get hit by cars. This is their world too,” he said.

Amid all the controversy, Pike emphasized the committee’s influential role.

“We have a lot at stake here,” Pike said.