Look at all the options for controling deer

After reading Anne Marie Flynn's letter to the Westport News on Jan. 7 I felt I needed to respond. To be right up front and honest, I'm a bow hunter and have been for many years. If you want to take my writing as biased, so be it. Parts of my family roots go back to this area since colonial times. I believe that with this deer "issue" there are many conflicting statements and opinions that have been voiced. I do believe that the meetings held by the Representative Town Meeting have been very civil and some great presentations have been made as well as questions asked.

In regards as to whether there is an issue with deer in this town, I guess it depends on whom you ask. If they don't bother you and you like seeing them in your yard, I guess they are not an issue. If you hit one with your car or they ate all of your plantings or your kid has Lyme disease, to you they are an issue. The guy who owns an auto body shop probably sees them as a business opportunity.

If we decide that deer are an issue in town, the next step would be - do we want to do anything about them. Maybe they are a problem in town but the town has a lot of other problems so nothing is going to be done. Steve Rubin made a good point at the last RTM committee meeting that the town is looking at a terrible budget and even possible layoffs, even if the town wanted to do something, is there actually any money to do it? If it is decided that something should be done, I think that all options need to be on the table. The only way for it to work would be for there to be a blend of options.

First, I don't think that traditional hunting methods alone are going to be effective. I was looking over my records and I've killed 19 deer in the last five years with a bow and arrow in Fairfield and Wilton. In Ms. Flynn's letter, she writes, "write-ups are available stating that approximately 50 percent of `shot' deer do not die immediately ... if at all." Well, I can tell you for a fact that 100 percent of any animal will not die "immediately" unless they are shot through the brain stem.

As for bow hunting wounding rates, the numbers are all over the place, usually depending on what group writes the article, and it's usually anecdotal. I have wounded deer but it was nowhere near half of the ones I shot. I'm not a trophy hunter; I hunt for meat. I eat the venison and have given 1,000 plus pounds to the Lower Fairfield County Food Bank in Stamford. Shooting big trophy bucks has basically no impact on deer numbers. If a hunter asks to hunt on your property (though illegal in Westport) to control the deer and shows you pictures of big antlered deer that he shot, he is not going to help you. For every deer he shot, he probably let 20 antler-less deer walk by. In some states and areas where deer numbers are low, it is illegal to shoot does. If you want to drop deer numbers with hunting, female deer need to be targeted.

The other issue with bow hunting is, is it appropriate in Westport? The answer is yes and no. Though there are no setbacks from houses for bow hunting, it is probably inappropriate for most of the town. Not all of the town but most. I'm not going to put up a stand in an area where I think I'm going to get bothered.

In all of my years of hunting in Fairfield, I've only had one person object. I had been hunting in the area for years and all of the neighbors wanted me there. The person who had a problem with it was an animal rights activist who moved from Los Angeles to Fairfield.

Some people may see hunting as cruel; my wife and mother-in-law don't like it very much, and that is their opinion and they are entitled to it. Twice in the last few years, I have had the misfortune of coming across vehicle-hit deer that were not yet dead on Long Lots Road. One was a doe that had a broken back and its legs stuck in the storm drain. It took the cop and me about 20 minutes to get it free of the storm drain and to the side of the road so he could shoot it. It was during rush hour so I'm sure that some readers of this letter witnessed it. The other was a fawn laying in the road in front of Hall-Brooke. I had to carry it over to the grass and then wait for the police to show up to put it down. My putting an arrow through a deer was much more merciful than what those animals went through.

Some people may say that we should "let nature take its course" in regards to dealing with deer in town. Nature can't take its course in Westport. That theory works great in places like Yellowstone and the Allagash wilderness in Maine. The real problem with that theory is that the environment that we have created in this area is already so unnatural. Grass on your lawn is unnatural. Planting flowers is unnatural. As the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote in regards to man, "the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."

In order for Westport to be "natural," we would need to do certain things. One would be to reintroduce apex predators such as timber wolves, which were exterminated in the colonial period. Another would be to allow any fire started by lightning to burn uncontrolled. Neither of these choices is either feasible or rational in town but they are natural.

If the town does decide to control deer hunting, that is just one tool in the toolbox. The last RTM committee meeting had a presentation on birth control. The technology has come a lot further than I thought it had, though it is still pretty experimental. In some areas of town, like pretty much all south of the Post Road, this may be a good though expensive choice to reduce deer numbers. In the northern parts of town, hunting may be the choice to use.

I think that for any deer reduction program to be effective all options need to be looked at and decided based on fact and not on emotion. No animal brings out more emotion than deer (well, maybe dogs) because they are attractive animals. If most residents were told that the town was going to start a program to reduce rats at Compo Beach, everyone would either cheer or not care. When it comes to emotions on reducing deer, well, that is a topic for a whole other letter or the ones that I'm sure will respond to this.

Jack Harder


Keep hydrants, vents clear for winter

The increased use of fireplaces and space heaters in the winter increases the danger of house fires. The recent deep snowfall has covered most hydrants in town as well as covering up some clothes dryer vents and furnace vents.

I encourage all Westporters to make sure the fire hydrants in their neighborhood are accessible in case of emergency. Please dig them out so the Fire Department can find them. Emergency responders need to be able to find and access hydrants quickly.

While you are digging out the hydrants you might also make sure your clothes dryer vent and furnace vent are not covered up to prevent problems with carbon monoxide.

It's also a good idea to make sure you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors especially this time of year.

Stay safe this winter.

Steven Violette