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Culling the Deer in Westchester Parks

This autumn, for the third year, sections of Muscoot Farm, Lasdon Park, and Mountain Lakes Park are open to hunters . Ward Pound Ridge Reservation is also open, for the second year. The only weapon permitted is a bow.

Applicants had to prove county residency and pass a proficiency test by hitting a nine-inch target at 25 yards, three times out of three, said Deputy Commissioner of Westchester County Parks, Peter Tartaglia.

“We commissioned a study that showed we needed to minimize the deer population,” he explained. Beyond the damage to county parkland, neighboring properties were affected by loss of vegetation and drainage problems, Tartaglia said.

“It looks as though the plan is successful,” he added. “There are areas in the parks where you can actually see the vegetation growing back.” In 2010, 168 deer were harvested in the four parks. Of these, 108 were from Ward Pound Ridge.

Not all hunters agree that opening the parks has much effect.

North Salem’s Larry Krauss, a seasoned hunter, approves of the program because “the deer do a lot of damage.” But, “if you’re going to a park to hunt, you first have to find the people who work there,” he explained.

“You can only hunt during specific hours. But the deer may not be moving at that particular time. They usually come out after dark. The system is too regulated. And there’s a lot of human traffic.” When Krauss hunts he does it primarily on private land because he has access to 230 acres.

Bob Folberth, 72, said he has been hunting since he was “a little kid.” He is a member of the North Salem Fish and Game Association. Folberth too thinks the deer population ought to be culled but he finds the park hunting regulations are “too restrictive.” Folberth also believes the qualifications for hunters are too difficult. “The average shot is 15 to 20 yards. They want you to hit a bullseye further away.”

Folberth is also concerned about the increase in deer ticks. “I get them almost every day,” he said. “I’ve had Lyme disease many times. I’ve also had ehrlichiosis.”

“There are many more deer now than when I was a kid growing up in Lake Purdys. At that time, if you saw deer tracks it was something special. You used to think, ‘Will I see a deer today?’ but now you think, ‘When are they coming?’”

As for the deer meat, Tartaglia said the county will come and pick it up and donate it to a shelter, or the hunter can take it home.

Krauss said, “Deer meat has a better flavor around here than in other places because of what they eat. It’s a different menu. They eat apples and grass and shrubs and sunflower seeds. And there are a lot of hay fields.”

Folberth added,  “Deer are delicious. If you took the chops of the young deer -- why, it tastes like loin lamb chops.”

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