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Nature Center to Deer: Stay Out!

A1-RNC Dir Christine SillerWhile the deer population here isn’t as dense as it is in northern Westchester, many Rye residents think it’s a serious problem. People recount stories about deer munching their way through shrubs and perennials like a swarm of locusts.

 

By BIll Lawyer

 

While the deer population here isn’t as dense as it is in northern Westchester, many Rye residents think it’s a serious problem. People recount stories about deer munching their way through shrubs and perennials like a swarm of locusts.


In recent years homeowners and local officials have established commissions and study groups to find ways to cope with the problem. In 2008 a County task force issued a 92-page report describing the scope of the deer problem, with a variety of recommendations.  

 

A1-RNC Dir Christine SillerIn Northern Westchester some communities and parks have even established controlled deer hunting programs.  

 

Meanwhile, back in 2006, the Rye Nature Center recruited Barbara Lucas-Wilson of the New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to carry out a forest stewardship plan.  

 

The plan started out by identifying 17 goals that the center and its board of directors wanted the plan to address. The property was divided into sections with specific goals for each. These were put into a timetable for accomplishment.

 

First on the schedule, and ongoing, was to “discourage or eliminate exotic elements.” Next were enhancing biological diversity, promoting a variety of forest types, and restoring native ecosystem elements.  

 

Other parts of the plan carried out at the same time included improving and expanding the trail system and signage, clearing some of the forest to establish a field habitat, and redoing the center’s map using GPS technology.

 

While these components were moving forward, by 2008 the RNC board and staff were ready to act on a project that was essential to the successful completion of the habitat diversity/native ecosystem element goals: reducing the impact of deer on the property.   

 

As Executive Director Christine Siller explained it, “The DEC recommended that if we wanted to curtail the destructive impact of deer in accomplishing our goals, we had to install a “deer exclosure”.  

 

Board member Ron Fisher, along with staff member Mary Gillick, helped coordinate the project. After exploring various types and designs of fencing, they selected a product developed by DeerGuard Fence Systems to enclose a five-acre area in the northwest corner of the RNC property. The black vinyl-coated woven galvanized steel wire fencing is 7 feet high, and runs 1,300 linear feet. It joins the existing property fencing for a total of 1,700 linear feet. The cost of the fencing and installation was $11,000. Fortunately, they were able to get a grant of $10,000 from Con Ed’s Westchester division, through the assistance of Patricia Mulqueen.

 

The fencing was installed last December. Three gates were included to allow people to enter and walk along the trails that go through the property.  

 

A recent visit to the deer exclosure site did not reveal any dramatic change between the fenced-out and fenced-in property as yet. However, the expectation is that as time goes by seeds from the trees will be able to germinate and not be eaten by deer, so that a healthy forest can be restored.

 

The RNC staff is working with the Little Garden Club of Rye to enhance this project. They’re planning to organize one or more family tree-planting events this fall.  

 

In coming years the center is also planning to move the exclosure fencing to other areas of the 47-acre property where over-grazing has resulted in seedlings and saplings not taking root.  

 

Ms. Siller recognizes these projects alone won’t solve deer overpopulation. “It will take a regional approach, but our fence will get things moving in the right direction, and can be a teaching tool for helping people understand the importance of protecting forests.”

 


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