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 What You Can Do

A positive resolution of this issue depends on individual people getting involved and taking action. Even if you don't live in Cayuga Heights, you can make a difference:

1. Speak up
Contact the following decision makers and let them know your questions and concerns:

Mayor Kate Supron
(607) 257-1238

Deputy Mayor Liz Karns
(607) 257-1238

Police Chief James Steinmetz
(607) 257-1011

Cayuga Heights Trustees:
Chris Crooker email
Stephen Hamilton email
Diana Riesman email
Richard Robinson email
Peter Salton email

Phone messages for the trustees can be left at (607) 257-1238.

2. Sign our online petition
Visit for a quick and easy way to get your name added to our petition and have an email sent in your name to the decisionmakers.

3. Write a letter to the editor

The Ithaca Journal
Ithaca Times
Cornell Daily Sun

4. Sign up to receive updates

Sign up at the top of this column.

5. Help educate others
Get your friends, neighbors and colleagues involved in the public dialogue about this important issue. Begin by letting them know about this web resource. You can do that quickly and easily by clicking on the Send-to-a-Friend button.

6. Attend meetings of the Cayuga Heights Village Trustees

The Village Trustees are the decision makers. Consider attending these public meetings and letting the trustees know your questions and concerns.

Village Trustee meetings are open to the public and are held at 7 PM on the second Monday of every month.

Learn more | What you can do | Sign our Online Petition

  We encourage you to look beyond the assumption that there are just too many deer, and that killing some will solve people’s problems. Instead, consider that it is unresolved deer-human conflicts that make people so frustrated. Non-violent solutions exist to address these conflicts directly, allowing us to live in harmony with both our neighbors and our natural surroundings. These alternatives promise to be more effective, less costly, and less divisive than a killing program that largely ignores existing data and research.

 Addressing Conflicts Directly:
 The safe, cost-effective, and pragmatic alternative

Instead of annually paying large sums of tax-payers' dollars to an out-of-town deer killing contractor, why not hire an on-staff Community Deer Ranger whose job would be to directly assist residents experiencing conflicts? A Deer Ranger could collect and disseminate the latest techniques for protecting gardens, consult with property owners individually, assist with implementing deer repelling protocols, and arrange for group buying discounts on community-appropriate fencing and repellent technologies. In short, a Deer Ranger could help bring the community together by offering a positive approach and seeing to it that concrete steps are promptly taken on behalf of those most impacted.

A coordinated, community-wide, non-violent alternative:
• provides immediate relief to
   the people who need it most
• saves tax payers money
• opens up opportunities for
   federal & private assistance
• prevents risks of injury and
   law suits
• prevents community division

Already there are many Cayuga Heights residents who maintain vibrant gardens and beautiful landscaping through the creative use of fencing, plant selection, and repellents. If more residents were empowered with the proper tools and technologies, those who have struggled for years could finally get some relief. And this relief would come more quickly and reliably than the haphazard results of a killing program. While immuno-contraception and sterilization are non-lethal alternatives that have been implemented in other communities to reduce deer population, experience still demonstrates that until residents have the ability to effectively protect their gardens, it doesn't matter how many deer are in the village — all it takes is one eating their favorite plantings to bring some people back to a state of total frustration.

Likewise, prevention should be the focus of any program aimed at reducing deer-vehicle collisions (DVC's). Fortunately, there are highly effective roadside warning reflector systems. Strieter-Lite technology, for example, has a track record of reducing DVCs by 78-90% and is eligible for up to 90% federal funding.2 The traffic engineer in nearby Owego reported 100% reduction during their first year of use.3 Police Chief Boyce has analyzed Cayuga Heights data and confirmed that there are DVC "hot spots." By installing warning reflectors in such areas, the collision rate can be significantly reduced—without any of the risks of a killing program, which may actually cause accidents. This happened in Rochester Hills when, on the second day of shooting, a frightened deer ran into the road and was hit by a car.4

   Alternatives: The Details

Cayuga Heights Mayor Jim Gilmore, Deputy Mayor David Donner, and Deer Remediation Advisory Committee (DRAC) Chairperson Kate Supron have emphasized that they believe deer need to be killed for reasons of public safety.1 As documented elsewhere on this site, there are serious questions about the quality of information and reasoning used by DRAC to evaluate these potential risks, not to mention the safety and ethics of their preferred approach. In every case there is a safer, more ethical, and more sensible approach than a program centered on annually baiting and shooting deer in the midst of our densely settled suburban community.

Deer-vehicle collisions

In 2006, 2007 and 2008, there were, respectively, 11, 12 and 3 (as of 9/30/08) deer-vehicle collisions in Cayuga Heights.5 None of these accidents resulted in serious human injury. This reflects a state-wide trend, where only a small percentage of deer-vehicle collisions result in serious human injury,6 a trend that is likely accentuated by Cayuga Heights' relatively low speed limit. In fact, most fatalities from deer-vehicle collisions happen in speed zones of 55 mph or higher, when the victims are not wearing seatbelts or motorcycle helmets.7 It is interesting to note that a report by the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University in 2001 found that the rate of deer-vehicle collisions in Cayuga Heights had been approximately 10 per year for the previous six years.8 Hence, the idea that the deer population in Cayuga Heights is spiralling out of control, and bringing with it a dramatic increase in deer-vehicle collisions, is not supported by the data.

Of course, no one wishes to experience a car accident of any sort. And even though the data suggests that the rate of deer-vehicle collisions in Cayuga Heights is relatively steady, if our community wishes to reduce the rate of deer-vehicle collisions, there are numerous safe, ethical, and rational alternatives.

Strieter-lite graphFor example, there are roadside reflector technologies such as the Streiter-lite system, which uses reflected light from the headlights of oncoming cars to alert deer. This system has been installed in numerous locations around the world. Its effectiveness in reducing deer-vehicle collisions has been studied, showing results of 78-90% (see graph at right which shows accident rates before and after installation of reflectors).9

There is a Strieter-lite system installation in Owego, New York, just 30 miles South of Ithaca. According to the Owego traffic engineer, the reduction of deer-vehicle collisions has been high, nearly 100%.10 The cost of installing this system may also be reduced by federal grant support.11

Strieter-lite diagram

Another promising technology, the Roadside Animal Detection System (RADS), takes a different approach. RADS uses radio sensors to detect large animals approaching a roadway. If an animal gets too near a road, the sensor activates a warning signal, alerting drivers to be cautious and slow down. One study in Switzerland found that such animal detection systems produced a reduction in collisions of up to 82 percent.12

RADS diagram

Fencing is another proven alternative which can be used on its own or in combination with the options shown above. According to several studies, wildlife fencing, if used correctly, has the documented potential to reduce deer-vehicle collsions dramatically. One study in Banff, Alberta, for example, showed that fencings systems reduced collisions by 80%.13

There is also data suggesting that vehicle speed is correlated with the rate of deer-vehicle collisions, so more strict enforcement of the speed limit may be helpful. Community education programs that teach drivers how to drive more safely and avoid deer-vehicle collisions could further contribute to a reduction of collision risk.

Each of these alternatives to a bait and shoot program offers a documented potential to significantly reduce the risk of deer-vehicle collsions, and without negative side-effects, including the safety risks associated with the annual discharge of weapons in a densely settled community. Mayor Gilmore has spoken at a public meeting of allocating initial funding of $50,000 to a deer killing program. And as outside experts who have spoken at meetings have confirmed, a bait and shoot program is not a one-time solution, but rather a yearly endeavor.14 Thus, the public safety risks, the cost to tax payers, and the moral weight of killing human-habituated deer would continue to accrue year after year.

We can do better. Resources invested in sensible, nonviolent alternatives are a far better investment as they will provide immediate results, and will continue to offer value to the community for years to come.


The DRAC has identified three potential disease risks associated with deer:

1. Chronic wasting disease (CWD)

CWD is a serious issue — for people who eat deer meat, and in states where the disease has a strong presence. However, New York is not one of those states. So far, only two cases of CWD have ever been found in New York's wild deer population.15 Hence, killing local deer out of a fear of CWD is simply irrational. However, for those who want to be extra safe, refraining from eating deer meat is surely the way to go.

2. Illness caused by contact with deer feces

wash your handsWhen contacted about this issue, a staff member of the Tompkins County Health department did not know of any record of residents who have become ill through contact with deer feces, and had never heard of this being a public health issue in general. That said, most mothers generally teach their children not to play with feces, regardless of the source, and to wash their hands should they come in contact with feces. Following this time tested rule seems more sensible than trying to reduce the aggregate amount of deer feces in our community by killing a large number of deer every year. After all, shall we contemplate eradicating the squirrels, birds, cats, dogs and other animals in our community in order to create a feces-free environment?

3. Lyme Disease

With a rate of infection averaging 3.3 per 100,000 people, the incidence of Lyme Disease in Tompkins county is low compared to many other counties in New York state. For example, the state's average infection rate is 26.2 per 100,000, and some counties in the Hudson Valley and Long Island see hundreds of cases of Lyme Disease per 100,000 residents.16 Of the few cases of Lyme disease seen in Tompkins county, it is believed that at least some of the them were contracted by people while traveling to areas where the incidence of the disease is much higher.

However, regardless of the rate of infection, it's important to understand that people don’t catch Lyme disease from deer. It is ticks that transmit the disease to humans. If a person is bitten by an infected tick, and does not remove the tick within 36 hours, they may contract Lyme disease. One study indicated that the risk of infection from a recognized tick bite was 1 to 2 percent. If infection does occur, early and appropriate treatment almost always results in a prompt and uncomplicated cure.17

So, if our community is serious about lowering our already comparatively low rate of this disease, does it make sense to kill lots of deer? While it is true that deer and other large mammals play a part in the reproductive cycle of deer ticks, who feed on them before laying their eggs, most cases where killing deer has been shown to be effective in significantly reducing tick populations have been on islands and peninsulas where it was possible to carry the killing to the extent of near eradication.18

4 posterThe American Lyme Disease Foundation does not advocate for deer killing programs to control the spread of Lyme disease. Instead, they promote the use of a technology called the “4 Poster” that kills the mature ticks on deer. The 4 Poster method has been shown capable of reducing tick populations by 92-98% over three years.19 Another effective method is to use simple cardboard tube and box applicators that apply an agent that kills the immature ticks called nymphs that are feeding on field mouse hosts.20 Ticks at the nymph stage are the most common transmistters of Lyme disease to humans. These sorts of devices have been shown to reduce tick populations by a high percentage as well.21

Probably the simplest, most cost-effective, and safest method of reducing our already low rate of Lyme disease is education. If people know to dress properly before venturing into areas where ticks are known to be found, if they bathe after time spent in nature and then check themselves and their children for ticks, and if they know how to recognize the symptoms of Lyme disease, the risks can be substantially reduced. This can be accomplished by supporting the efforts of the Tompkins County Health Department to educate the people of our county as well as to offer more advanced training for area health care professionals in the diagnosis of the disease.

Deer-human aggression

Outside of situations where people are trying to capture, harm or kill deer or their young, aggression of wild deer toward humans is extremely rare. Instead of annually killing a large number of suburban deer in an attempt to lower the risk of an already extremely unlikely possibility, it simply makes sense to refrain from attempting to capture, harm or kill the deer or their young in the first place.

In conclusion

DRAC has made a case that deer should be killed for reasons of public safety. A common sense analysis of the specific concerns they raise demonstrates that in several cases, the risks are less significant than is being implied by several members of the DRAC, and that in every case, killing deer is not the best option for reasons of safety, effectiveness, and ethics. It is not possible to eliminate all risk from life, and since our time and financial resources are limited individually and as a community, it makes sense to carefully prioritize our risk reduction efforts. When, as in the case of a bait and shoot program, the solution introduces even more serious risks than the purported problem, isn’t it time to step back and think a little more about where we are going?

This web site is published by - Ithacans for Safe, Ethical, and Rational Approaches to Reducing Deer-Human Conflict. We are a group of concerned citizens from Ithaca neighborhoods, including Cayuga Heights. If you would like to join our educational outreach effort and be informed of opportunities where your input can make a difference, contact us.

1.  Cayuga Heights Village Trustees meeting: 9/15/08; DRAC meeting: 9-30-08; Deer Remediation Committee statement
    (Click here to see the statement that was removed from the Cayuga Heights web site shortly after was
2. A Study of the Effectiveness of Strieter-Lite Wild Animal Highway Warning Reflector Systems by Robert H. Grenier, Jun
    28, 2002;
3. STRIETER-LITE Wild Animal Highway Warning Reflector System: New York, Owego District Report.
4. City Council meeting, Rochester Hills, Michigan, Jan. 28, 2009
5. DRAC Meeting: 9/30/08

6. New York State Dept. of Motor Vehicles Summary of Motor Vehicle Accidents, 2007 Statewide Statistical Summary
7. Highway Loss Data Institute, News Release, October 30, 2008
8. "Summary Report of Cayuga Heights Deer Study Committee," Cornell Dept. of Natural Resources
9. "A Study of the Effectiveness of Strieter-Lite Wild Animal Highway Warning Reflector Systems," by Robert H. Grenier, June
    10, 2002. Page 9.

10. Strieter-Lite Sites: New York, Owego District, and phone call with traffic engineer, October, 2008
11. Strieter-Lite Funding
12. Mosler-Berger, C. & J. Romer. 2003. Wildwarnsystem CALSTROM. Wildbiologie 3:1-12.
13. Clevenger, A.P., B. Chruszcz, K. Gunson & J. Wierzchowski. 2002b. Roads and wildlife in the Canadian Rocky Mountain
     Parks: movements, mortality and mitigation. Final report to Parks Canada. Banff, Alberta, Canada.

14. DRAC meetings: 9/30/08 and 11/20/08
15. NY State Dept. of Environmental Conservation: Status of Chronic Wasting Disease in New York

16. NY State Dept. of Health: 2004-2006 Bureau of Communicable Disease Control Data as of July, 2008
17. American Academy of Pediatrics: Prevention of Lyme Disease

18. New England Journal of Medicine: How Can We Prevent Lyme Disease?
19. American Lyme Disease Foundation: '4-Poster' Deer Treatment Bait Station
20. Ecohealth, Inc: Fight Lyme Disease
21. Ecohealth, Inc: Daminix Tick Tubes - Test results on Fire Island, NY