A new program proposed by the Bethlehem Committee on Deer and Ticks would match bow hunters with homeowners who want to control the deer population in their area.
The program was first suggested at a presentation to the Town Board in April. Other possible suggestions to reduce the deer population included longer hunting seasons, an increase in hunting permits, allow hunting on currently prohibited land or allow hunting near the Hudson River.
The committee has since set up a section on the town’s website where hunters and property owners can ask to receive more information about the program. Qualified bow hunters can get on the list, or the list can be requested for those looking for additional population control options.
“We have limited resources with no staff or budget,” said Committee Co-Chairwoman and Town Board Member Julie Sasso. “Our main goal was to get all the information out there to the community, and then residents could decide what made the most sense for them and their property.”
Hunting is regulated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Bow hunting is allowed in the areas of Delmar, Slingerlands and parts of Glenmont. However, permission would be needed from occupants of all surrounding dwellings and buildings within 150 feet. This goes along with hunters receiving permission from the property owner.
Sasso said it would be up to the property owners to make sure the hunters are properly licensed.
Town Attorney Jim Potter said given how the program is being set up, the town would not be liable if any accidents were to happen. It would most likely fall under a person’s homeowner’s insurance.
“The activity is already legal,” said Potter. “All the town is doing is connecting the hunter and property owner by providing a list.”
Mary Jane Serfillippi, a member of the committee and a local animal activist, said she was not happy with the proposal.
“I’m known as the animal rights person on the committee,” Serfillippi said. “I told them when I came on I was going to be a voice for the animals. The suggestion of hunting in the town threw me for a loop.”
Serfillippi said she knows the hunting is already legal, but she doesn’t feel comfortable with the town’s involvement. She said most people probably didn’t know it was legal before now, and that’s why it’s become controversial. She said a lot of kids walk to school and town, and there are people jogging or walking their dogs.
“What if they hit the deer and then it runs? Kids could see it with an arrow sticking in them — a scenario no one wants,” Serfillippi said. “I worry about safety. Kids walking to school and cutting through people’s property — I was told the kids would be trespassing, but that’s a pretty hard lesson to learn.”
She said she is very proud of the committee’s other efforts and programs. Sasso agreed.
A fall forum will soon be held. The first public presentation will take place on Sept. 24 at 7 p.m., and focus on deer and tick born disease. The presentation will be followed by an open session with tables and information on different topics. Sasso said there will be gardening tips, traffic information and a vet on hand.
The committee also worked with local hardware stores to get them to carry special mice bedding tubes, which include cotton bedding sprayed with a pesticide to reduce ticks. It doesn’t harm the mice or other animals.
“The matching program is another piece we are sharing about what the existing hunting regulations are,” said Sasso. “We’re not changing anything or doing anything different than what already exists at the state level.”
She said despite the name, there is no actually matching involved. The town is just facilitating a meet-and-greet and providing an excel sheet to both interested parties. If property owners don’t feel comfortable with a certain hunter, they don’t have to work with them or allow hunting on their property. The same goes for hunters. Sasso said they would also like feedback from hunters and homeowners on their experience.
“We wouldn’t want to share names if there was a problematic situation,” Sasso said.
Last September, committee members asked residents to participate in an online survey to “to assess community experience with deer and tick populations.” Most felt the deer population was more of an issue in more central parts of the town, like Delmar and Slingerlands, rather than those who lived in more rural areas like Glenmont and Selkirk.
A total of 1,740 residents responded to the survey. Most found the deer to be a nuisance, with 73 percent of survey takers claiming to have landscape or garden damage. Even more felt the methods they used at home to deter the deer, such as soap or specific plants, were not working.
Of greater concern was the increased amount in car accidents in recent years caused by deer. About 66 percent of those who took the survey said they have seen deer by town roads once or twice a week, while 23 percent said someone in their immediate family had been in a car accident involving a deer.
As for ticks, 81 percent of respondents said they had found a tick on themselves or immediate family member. Another 86 percent said they knew someone who has had a tick-borne disease.
To learn more, visit www.townofbethlehem.org/642/Bethlehem-Committee-on-Deer-and-Ticks.