Deer Alliance is 10 years old

At its last meeting, the Fairfield County Deer Management Alliance took note of its 10-year anniversary, reflecting on the successes and challenges the alliance has faced.

The alliance, initiated 10 years ago by the Town of Wilton as part of its own deer management program, is a collaborative effort of member Fairfield County towns.

Presently, participating towns include Brookfield, Redding, Ridgefield, Wilton, Darien, Greenwich, Shelton, Stamford, Newtown, Westport, and New Canaan.

Founding member Patricia Sesto, Wilton’s director of environmental affairs, spoke to the fact that each town is at a different point of readiness to deal with the issues associated with deer overabundance.

“The alliance is a perfect way for the towns to share information and support each other’s efforts,” she said. “We have a great deal of knowledge between us and that is a valuable resource.”

At the time the alliance was formed, only Wilton and New Canaan had active programs to reduce the number of deer and educate the public on various deer overabundance problems. Today, Greenwich, Darien, Redding, Ridgefield, Newtown, and Brookfield have hunting programs. Each town built its program on their own particular opportunities, and the lessons learned from the other towns.

One customized program is BeSafeRedding.org.

The BeSafeRedding.org effort was the result of more than 500 residents in Redding signing a petition to encourage the town to pursue a responsible deer reduction effort.

Local residents working together have signed up over 150 landowners to allow a licensed hunter to hunt on their property. The results after four years have been dramatic.

By some estimates, deer densities in Redding have been reduced from 64 deer per square mile to close to 35 deer per square mile in the last five years.

Many of the deer management efforts in member towns donate excess venison to local food banks.

Hunters are free to fill their freezers and are encouraged to donate any meat beyond that to those in need. Over the 10 years, thousands of pounds of venison have been donated to food banks and benefit game dinners.

Russ Cornelius, representing Brookfield, sees this element as a “game changer” for some people who would otherwise not support hunting.

“Once people realize the animals are not being wasted and are in fact helping meet a need, they are more accepting of hunting,” he said.