Deer hunting season opens today

Deer hunting season opens today

The Hour

By CHASE WRIGHT
Hour Staff Writer

“The idea that we’re going to shoot our way out of all of our problems, that ain’t going to happen,” said Priscilla Feral, president of the Darien-based nonprofit Friends of Animals.

Beginning today, the Devil’s Den Preserve in Weston will be closed to the public on select days while deer hunting season gets under way statewide.

The Nature Conservancy has been coordinating the Devil’s Den deer cull since 2001 in an effort to thin the animal population and protect the ecological habitat of the 1,756-acre preserve.

“The basic issues are the impact that deer have on our ecosystem,” said Howard Kilapatrick, wildlife biologist with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The high density of deer in Connecticut has been associated with an increased incidence of deer-vehicle accidents and Lyme disease cases, he said.

When the state began controlling its deer population in earnest 10 years ago, deer-vehicle accidents had peaked at about 3,000. Kilapatrick said the number of accidents involving deer has dropped by more than a third to about 2,000 collisions in 2010.

The Nature Conservancy says an overabundance of deer in southwestern Connecticut has contributed to the gradual loss of native flowering plants and tree species, which are unable to regenerate because the animals favor the acorns and samplings.

But animal advocacy groups claim that concerns propagated by land conservationists are merely designed to demonize the innocent animals.

“The idea that we’re going to shoot our way out of all of our problems, that ain’t going to happen,” said Priscilla Feral, president of the Darien-based nonprofit Friends of Animals.

Feral, a Rowayton resident, has been among the most vocal animal advocates in the area. Each year, her agency organizes protests and encourages boycotting of the Conservancy and the Darien Land Trust, which oversees the limited deer culling in Selleck’s Woods.

“I think it’s a vulgarity that really keeps me up at night,” Feral said of deer population management. “That I live next door to where this goes on infuriates me.”

Controlled deer hunting began at Selleck’s Woods last week and continues until Dec. 9, or until a total of nine animals have been tagged.

The Nature Conservancy will close the trails at Devil’s Den Preserve to the public Nov. 17 – 18; Nov. 22 – 24; Nov. 29 – Dec. 2; and Dec. 6 – 7.

Inclement weather is expected to keep turnout low on the opening day of shotgun and rifle season, Kilapatrick said.

Permitted shotgun and rifle shooting continues for three weeks, until the beginning of muzzle loader season, which ends the annual hunting season at the end of December. Archery hunting also begins Thursday and runs through the end of January.

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