Driving for deer life
By Faith Tomei/ email@example.com
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Since the weather turned cold, motorists have reported unwelcome encounters with deer. The creatures have run in front of cars and trucks, and into the sides of cars as they pass. The result can be dead or injured animals, dented hoods and car doors, accidents that injure drivers and passengers.
Accidents involving deer shoot up with the approach of winter. While 15 to 20 deer are killed by vehicles in Ipswich annually, a glance at the police log reveals that this year is worse than most. Each week since mid-October, at least one, often several motorists have reported injured or dead deer along Ipswich roads.
Animal Control Officer Harry Leno says he has, in fact, received more calls than usual as the deer venture out of the forest and underbrush to forage for food. "This fall, there were no nuts to speak of," he said, explaining that the heavy rain last spring kept the nuts and acorns from forming on the trees.
The hungry deer cross busy roads to reach open fields with grass and other edibles, ignoring vehicles in their path. More such accidents are reported at night, when deer become bolder. Some accidents occur in broad daylight, however.
Police Chief and Public Safety Director Charles Surpitski told selectmen at a recent meeting that a deer ran into the side of his car at "high noon" as he was in a long line of traffic on Topsfield Road. "It's clearly an issue. It pays to be vigilant, especially on Linebrook and Topsfield roads," Surpitski said.
Selectman Patrick McNally, who lives on Little Neck Road, said that both of his daughters have had deer encounters on Jeffreys Neck Road this winter. One incident involved hundreds of dollars of damage to the roof of the car, not to mention the damage done to the deer, he said.
Surpitski said some motorists have mounted whistles that only deer can hear on their vehicles in an effort to warn the animals of their approach. The Essex County Coop in Topsfield, as well as hardware and auto parts stores, carry these whistles.
Perhaps the best precaution, however, is to drive cautiously and pay attention to what's going on at the side of the road, Surpitski said. If a deer has crossed the road in front of a driver, chances are a second deer will follow, he added.
The deer population has increased as subdivisions have been built. "It's human beings versus wildlife," Leno said.
When Leno gets a report of an injured deer, he checks it out. If the deer is suffering, he puts it out of its misery. He disposes of dead deer by moving the carcasses from the roadside to an out-of-the-way place where foxes, hawks, and other natural predators can find them.
"It's the balance of nature," he said.
Dead and injured deer are most frequently found on Topsfield, Turnpike and Linebrook roads, the border of Willowdale State Forest. The stretch of Linebrook near Marini's Farm is especially hazardous.
But several deer incidents have been reported on High and East streets; Little Neck, Jeffrey's Neck, and other roads on the Neck, and on Mill Road as well.
Farmer Mario Marini does battle with the deer year round. In the winter, he drives cautiously on the piece of Linebrook that stretches from Edge Street to his farm pond.
The deer affect Marini's income as well as his safety. During the growing season, Marini and his son Mike spend long hours trying to keep deer from gobbling their crops.
When he plants strawberries, lettuce, and other crops, he surrounds the field with electric fence to keep the deer out. It's both expensive and time-consuming.
At an agriculture conference in New Jersey this winter, Marini heard of a new product that farmers spray at the edge of their fields which gives off an odor that repels deer but has no effect on humans. "I'll give it a try this spring," he said.
The Conservation Commission erected signs this fall prohibiting the hunting of deer on the town-owned property that forms an "L" on the west side of the farm pond and in back of his fields. The ConsCom posted the signs before deer hunting season in mid-October due to complaints from abutters, conservation agent David Pancoast said.
State law forbids hunting with arrows or guns within 500 feet of a dwelling. While one strip of the land in question is more than 500 feet from the closest home, it would require constant monitoring by police to enforce that law, Pancoast said.
Ellie Horwitz, who works at the state Department of Fisheries and Wildlife in Boston, said the deer population has grown in all parts of the state. Because of that, deer hunting season has been extended since the early 1990s. Last year bow hunting was permitted from Oct. 17 to Dec. 31. Shotgun and muzzleloader season, while not as long, has been lengthened as well.
The antlerless deer permit allowing hunters to bag female deer has also been liberalized to control the overall deer population. The deer management overview on the MassWildlife Web site said that population growth estimates can exceed 30 percent annually and that hunters help achieve population density goals by limiting deer densities.
MassWildlife says it maintains deer densities between 10 and 30 per square mile in an effort to curb "property damage, road collisions and Lyme disease."
Local residents might dispute deer density statistics in some parts of town. "Someone told me they counted 72 deer in the field one night," Marini said. He said deer are now ravaging fields he leases in other parts of town as well as the fields around his home.
Town Clerk Frances Richards issued state hunting licenses to 51 Ipswich residents and three non-residents in 2004, as well a 34 sporting licenses that cover fishing as well as hunting. She also issued 33 free sporting licenses to senior citizens over 70, and one trapping license.
Richards has no way of knowing how many of these hunt deer and how many restrict their hunting to rabbits, duck, geese, and other small game.
Richards' hunch is that the number of big game hunters is on the decrease in Ipswich. As a resident of Linebrook Road who can see a field leased by Marini out her back window, she believes the deer, on the other hand, are on the increase.
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on the ground and going nowhere will have on the deer population there? That would be a disaster for the deer herd in my area.
The western part of this state did not get as much snow. We also don't seem to have the deer numbers the east seems to have at the moment. The other thing we don't have this year are acorns. The lack of acorns along with deep snow won't help the deer out here, but with the addition of the bitter cold we had, I think the turkeys will take more of a hit this year. Getting back to the deer I am aware of four potential B&C bucks taken this past year in this samll state. One is a 250 lb eight pointer, yep an eight, taken during the archery season.
Most of the fat ones are in the legislature and many were on the political trail this fall. You guys should tell the F&G comission to teach the deer to forage in Boston where the nuts are abundant...LOL