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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

Police Chief Tom Boyce
(607) 257-1011

Deputy Mayor Bea Szekely
(607) 257-1238

Cayuga Heights Trustees:
Robert Andolina email
Diana Riesman email
Chris Crooker email
Liz Karns email

Phone messages for 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.

All but 20 deer may soon be baited and shot dead in Cayuga Heights!
Learn more | What you can do | Sign our Online Petition


Thus far, the arguments presented to support a deer killing program have been largely unsubstantiated, and have proven to be especially weak when examined in light of data specific to Cayuga Heights. Here are a few examples:

   Deconstructing the Myths

Killing deer to prevent Lyme disease?

The incidence of Lyme disease in Tompkins County is low, as much as 10-20 times lower than some other New York counties.1 Of the small number of cases identified here, at least some are believed to be contracted by people traveling outside our region.2 None of the Lyme disease data from our county is linked specifically to Cayuga Heights.3

People don’t catch Lyme disease from deer, but from ticks. Neither the Tompkins County Health Dept. nor the American Lyme Disease Foundation support the killing of deer as a route to reducing Lyme disease risk. In fact, a recent study in New Jersey showed that after three years of an aggressive deer killing program, no reduction in Lyme disease rates or in disease-carrying tick populations were found.4

Instead, the Tompkins County Health Dept. focuses on tick bite prevention and identification, as well as diagnostic training for local medical professionals. They stress keeping lawns regularly mowed and removing brush piles. This helps eliminate habitats for ticks and their small animal hosts, such as birds and field mice, which, unlike the deer, are capable of contracting Lyme disease and passing it on to more ticks. In fact, a 2006 study found that the density and infectiousness of ticks can actually INCREASE when deer numbers are suddenly reduced in an area, since ticks then turn to smaller animal hosts, creating tick-borne disease “hot spots.”5

Collision rates: a sign of deer population spiraling out of control?

Deer-Vehicle Collisions
in Cayuga Heights
2008 - 7
2007 - 12
2006 - 11
2005 - 8
2004 - 10

There is no data demonstrating that the deer population in Cayuga Heights is spiralling out of control, bringing with it more and more deer-vehicle collisions (DVC’s). In fact, the village police reported 7 confirmed DVC’s in 2008, down from 12 in 2007, and 11 in 2006.6 In 2001, a report by Cornell’s Department of Natural Resources found that the rate of DVC’s in Cayuga Heights had been approximately 10 per year for the previous six years.7 So, for more than fifteen years now, the rate of DVC’s has been remarkably stable.

To keep things in perspective, no DVC in recent years has resulted in serious human injury, likely due to Cayuga Heights’ relatively low speed limit. Most fatalities from DVC’s
nationwide happen in speed zones of 55 mph or higher, when the victims are not wearing seat belts or motorcycle helmets.8

Insurance reports have shown that DVC’s spike 300-400% in some communities on the first weekend of hunting season,9 likely due to startled and injured deer scattering into nearby
roadways. This could explain why DVC’s sometimes actually increase after bait-and-shoot programs are implemented.10

Biodiversity and bird populations at risk?

Bait-and-shoot proponents have claimed that the deer are destroying the environment and decimating bird populations in Cayuga Heights. However, when contacted, neither the National Audubon Society nor Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology knew of any documentation of bird species being adversely affected by the presence of deer in the village.11

Recent studies at Ohio State University found that the presence of deer is actually helpful to other animal species, and that programs to reduce their populations may be detrimental to a region’s biodiversity. “Culling deer may cascade into affecting plants, salamanders and other creatures in ways we can’t even imagine,” said OSU researcher Katherine Greenwald. “Officials need to know more about the forest ecosystem before making decisions about wildlife management.”12 Another study showed that some forest
understory-dwelling birds benefit from deer-grazing, and that the presence of deer decreased populations of rodents that preyed on ground birds’ nests.13

Donated venison will help those in need?

Few people realize that venison obtained from deer killing programs is exempt from USDA inspection, and is not necessarily safe. Venison from Irondequoit, NY’s bait-and-shoot program, donated to Attica prison, was deemed unfit for human consumption and discarded.14 The EPA states, “While it may seem that hunting your own game, catching your own fish, or gathering wild plant foods would reduce your overall exposure to pesticides, that isn’t necessarily true. If you eat wild animals or plants from areas where pesticides are frequently used, this food may contain pesticide residues.”15

Deer meat from a bait-and-shoot program is also likely to contain lead from the bullets used. Lead is a potent neurotoxin, and there is no safe level of exposure. It causes neurological,
gastrointestinal and reproductive disorders, and can potentially cause brain damage or death in children that consume even small amounts.16 North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin recently discarded thousands of pounds of donated venison due to the discovery of lead contamination.17 Dr. William Cornatzer, a medical researcher at the University of North Dakota, found lead in 60% of samples of ground venison that had been donated to food programs.18

   Is It Credible?
John Hermanson, Kate Supron
DRAC members don't acknowledge a bias toward deer killing that has been clearly documented on several occasions, and even openly admitted to by the committee's chairperson. 
From its beginnings in the summer of 2008, DRAC has been characterized by a bias in favor of a bait-and-shoot deer killing program. Recently, this bias has been repeatedly denied by committee members, and yet, it has conclusively been demonstrated by the statements of DRAC's Chairperson, the Deputy Mayor, and the Mayor of Cayuga Heights

DRAC Chairperson denies committee's pro-killing bias

DRAC's first public act was to tell the Cayuga Heights Board of Trustees: "We propose that the primary means of decreasing the deer population will be culling the herd using expertly trained marksmen from the Cayuga Heights Police Dept."19

Cayuga Heights Mayor Jim Gilmore, who assembled DRAC, is a member of DRAC, and is DRAC's primary media spokesperson, has on many occasions announced his intention to implement a deer killing program. In the Fall 2008 issue of The Cayuga Heights Courier he wrote, "My recommendation to DRAC is to cull the herd."20 A December article in The Ithaca Journal states: "Those who favor culling the herd, including Gilmore, argue that baiting and shooting is necessary..."21

Nevertheless, at DRAC's January meeting, with a reporter from the Ithaca Journal present, Chairperson Kate Supron proclaimed, "when it's presented that this committee has focused on culling and that's all they're looking at -- we have never said that, I certainly never said that."22

Supron's claims are contradicted not only by published documents and by the Mayor's comments to local journalists, but by an interchange that occurred two months earlier, when newly appointed DRAC member Elizabeth Mount said at a DRAC meeting, "I really think we need to broaden this committee, because basically you all believe in culling," to which Supron responded, "True," and then laughed.23

After freely admitting that the committee was biased, Supron is now expressing bewilderment at where this impression has come from, saying: "oftentimes we get a lot of questions that assume, in the asking, that we are supportive exclusively of culling. It's been presented that way in various interviews, CayugaDeer I think has largely presented that we're a pro-culling committee, and if there's something I'm missing, please bring it to my attention."24

1. NY State Dept. of Health: 2004-06 Bureau of Communicable Disease Control Data as of July, 2008
2. and 3. Letter from Carol Mohler, Comm. Health Svcs Unit, Tompkins Co. Health Dept., 12/29/08
4. Effects of Sustained Reduction of White-tailed Deer on the Abundance of Ixodes scapularis (Acari:Ixodidae) in an Endemic Lyme Disease ares in New Jersey, Jnl. of Medical Entomology, 2007
5. Localized Deer Absence Leads to Tick Amplification, Ecology, 87(8), 2006
6. Deer Remediation Advisory Committee meeting, Feb. 5, 2009; and “Statistics on Deer Accident
and Incidents in Cayuga Heights,” memorandum prepared by Police Chief Thomas L. Boyce, 2008
7. Summary Report of Cayuga Heights Deer Study Committee, Cornell Dept. of Nat. Resources, 2001
8. Highway Loss Data Institute, News Release, Oct. 30, 2008
9. Pennsylvania Deer-Vehicle Collisions Down Slightly, PR Newswire, Sept. 24, 2008
10. City wants OK to cull 175 deer in ‘08, Solon Herald Sun, Jan. 17, 2008
11. Phone inquiries made in February, 2009
12. Indirect Effects of a Keystone Herbivore Elevate Local Animal Diversity, Journal of Wildlife Management, 72(6), Aug. 2008
13. The impact of herbivory by deer on forest bird communities in Japan, Acta Zoologica Sinica 52(Supplement): 684-686, 2006
14. Buffalo, NY Bait and Shoot, The C.A.S.H. Courier, 2004 Fall/Winter Issue
15. Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety, Environmental Protection Agency, Mar., 2005
16. Lead Exposure in Children Affects Brain and Behavior, American Academy of Child & Adolescent
Psychiatry, Facts for Families, No. 45, updated Nov. 2004
17. Lead fragments in venison a hot topic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Nov. 16, 2008
18. Lead found in donated venison at food shelves, Minneapolis-St.Paul Star Tribune, Mar. 28, 2008
19.  Deer Remediation Committee statement read by Deputy Mayor David Donner at 8-18-08 Cayuga Heights Village Trustees
Meeting (Note: this statement was removed from the Cayuga Heights web site shortly after was launched).
20.  "From the Mayor's Desk..." by Mayor Jim Gilmore, Cayuga Heights Courier, Fall 2008
21.  Ithaca Journal article: "Village proposed culling in order to curb deer overpopulation" by Krisi Gashler, 12/8/08
22.  DRAC meeting: 1/15/09

23.  DRAC meeting: 11/6/08
24.  DRAC meeting: 1/15/09