UPPER DUBLIN >> Sharpshooters will be hired to cull the deer herd in the township under an agreement approved by the board of commissioners at its Jan. 10 meeting.
The board voted 6-1 to pay the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative Service a not-to-exceed amount of $12,479 to bring in sharpshooters over four nights to reduce the herd by an estimated 75 deer. A corresponding measure to approve an agreement with Stuff It Taxidermy, LLC to butcher the deer killed at $85 per animal and donate the meat to Philabundance also passed 6-1.
The 2018 budget includes $19,000 for the township’s deer management program.
Commissioner Liz Ferry, who cast the no votes, said after the meeting she voted against hiring sharpshooters “partly” due to the cost, but, noting the deer move across township lines, she feels “county action should take place.”
The USDA, hired to do a survey last year and recommend ways to reduce the herd, has estimated 645 to 718 white-tailed deer are in the 13.2-square-mile township, or about 53 deer per square mile. The report recommends hiring professional sharpshooters to augment the township’s cross-bow hunting program, which allows licensed hunters who register with police to hunt in designated areas from mid-September to the end of January.
“The ultimate goal is to reduce the number of deer/car crashes, which is the metric we will use going forward,” UD police Officer David Madrak said.
As of Dec. 5, there were 27 reported deer/vehicle crashes in the township in 2017, another 48 deer struck found on the roadways, and police received 101 deer-related calls for service, he said. The 2017-18 deer archery program has netted 38 deer with two weeks left to go, he said.
In addition to deer/vehicle collisions, deer are associated with Lyme disease, damage to ornamental plants, trees and ground cover.
The hunt will take place in the same areas where bow-hunting is permitted, Madrak said.
They are: Aidenn Lair Woods; Camphill & Highland Athletic Complex; Dillon Road woodlands; Dublin Chase & Dublin Hunt open space; Pine Run Park; Robbins Park; Rose Valley Preserve; Sandy Run Park; and Susquehanna Woods — a total of 204.94 acres.
The exact dates for the hunts — 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. — will not be advertised, because “they don’t want to be harassed or have people hindering the process,” Madrak said.
Two residents spoke against hiring sharpshooters.
“I still think it’s too much to pay,” said Fort Washington resident Christine Posey, who called the estimate of 700 deer “way too high.”
“A number of wildlife biologists say it’s not the deer, it’s the acidic soil” that’s damaging forested areas, she said, adding, a bill has been introduced in Harrisburg “that calls the USDA into account for not taking care of our forests.”
She also advocated getting other estimates for the number of deer in the township.
Deer/car collisions could be reduced by “lowering speed limits and more police presence. Money is not going to resolve the problem,” Posey said. “You should look at new science results. Killing deer is not going to solve the problem.
“It’s the start of a very slippery slope,” she said. “We are going to spend thousands.”
“We have employed bow hunting and that’s not done enough,” board President Ira Tackel said. “Deer are being struck by vehicles … trees are nibbled on and plants eaten; it’s not acidic soil.
“Whether it’s 500, 600 or 700, it’s too much,” he said. In other townships, such as Lower Merion, which have employed sharpshooters, “this process has been very successful, he said. “It’s not something that can be once and done. This is the most effective way to begin that process.”
Dresher resident Renee Brock, who asked if other methods had been considered, said, “I suspect other deer will come and take their place.”
“None of the alternatives were practical or cost-effective,” Tackel said. “Birth control is incredibly expensive. You need to capture a deer, sedate it and make it infertile.
“If we approach it this way over several years, I suspect the population will be reduced,” he said. “The goal is to cull as many as possible.
“Vehicle deer strikes are more effective than bow-hunting, which is not very effective. The next approach is sharpshooters.”