Laurie McGrath and her husband Tom are the heads of the Deer Management Committee. The main form of deer control in Fairfield County is through bow hunting. Bow hunting season opened on September 15 and will continue until the end of January.

“Kent Haydock founded the Darien Deer Management Committee in 1996 because he realized that, lacking natural predators and being the main host for the deer tick, we needed to step up in helping control this health epidemic by reducing the deer population,” McGrath said. 

For a period of about 15 years it was a town committee, but now, since taking over in 2012, Darien Deer Management is an independent effort headed by the McGraths.

She continued, “We provide lists of licensed bow hunters, obtained either directly from us or picked up from the Town Clerk.  We are in the process of updating the list; until then, the old one is available at the Clerk's office.”

McGrath said the main reasons deer hunting are important are controlling the spread of Lyme disease, the prevention of deer-related car accidents, and prevent over-foraging of the underbrush

“Common belief is that if the deer population were reduced to 10 or fewer per square mile, the tick population would collapse; they need a major mammal host during their life cycle,” Laurie said.

“A reduction of native plant diversity and loss of habitat are the main problems.  Other animals and birds rely on the underbrush; we have lost a significant number of birds statewide,” she said.

Destruction of residential and public plantings are also a problem caused by the overpopulation of deer.

“According to the DEEP website, Fairfield County is Zone 11. 1,666 deer were harvested in 2017 by bow hunters on private land,” McGrath said.

Often, deer hunters work to donate the venison recovered from the hunt. According to the Deer Alliance, over a 7-year period (1995-2001), Connecticut hunters have donated over 10,000 pounds of venison to food charities in Connecticut.  In Connecticut, donated venison contributed over 72,000 meals valued at over $324,000. Currently hunters either pay to have deer processed or butchers volunteer their services at no cost or reduced costs.

Fall deer culls are not without their critics and happen in many surrounding towns. Some say the process is inhumane and say the danger of Lyme and other issues are overstated. Others worry about the dangers to themselves and their pets with hunters using bows on private properties adjacent to theirs.

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