Bethlehem seeks answers to burgeoning deer population

Citizens board to make informed suggestions on population reduction

— The Bethlehem Town Board has agreed to go forward with the creation of a citizens advisory board to discuss how to better control the town’s deer population.

Supervisor John Clarkson first referenced the possible creation of such a committee during this year’s State of the Town address. He said a number of residents have approached town officials in recent years, with many concerned about the possible spread of Lyme disease.

“We want to look into what, if any, suitable options can take place that the town can put into policy to combat the issue,” said Clarkson in a later interview.

The supervisor said the matter was of high concern for a number of residents, and the issue was brought up several times during the last election cycle as candidates for town board went door-to-door. Residents were not only concerned about Lyme disease, but the number of traffic accidents that have been caused in town by deer. Others have been concerned that the larger numbers of deer are disturbing their gardens.

The group will be formed to evaluate the issues related to the town’s growing deer population. Clarkson said the town would be looking to put together a diverse group of committee members with “scientific, medical, wildlife and conservation expertise.”

A number of people have already showed interest in joining the committee, which is expected to share its findings by year’s end. Clarkson said he would like to see data that compares how towns of a similar size combat the issue, and the relations between increased deer populations and the spread of Lyme.

“I don’t know the answer to all of these questions, but I do know that community members are extremely concerned,” said Clarkson. “We do have a number of deer in town.”

The supervisor said similar discussions in others towns have been contentious, but just because a topic is contentious doesn’t mean it should not be discussed.

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