HAMILTON, NY (01/30/2014)(readMedia)-- Colgate student researchers met with community members recently to discuss a problem that affects not only the town and village of Hamilton, but the entire nation - the overpopulation of white-tailed deer.
The students presented their findings from a semester-long research project that was an integral part of the Community-based Study of Environmental Issues course they are taking with Assistant Professor of Biology Catherine Cardelus.
The students found a definite overabundance of deer in Hamilton, about four times the size of a healthy population, and their findings indicated an increase in negative interactions between humans and deer. They collected data through on-site observations, local phone and online surveys, and by looking at communities across the nation facing similar issues.
The students found that some of these negative interactions include agricultural loss, lack of forest regeneration, higher incidence of Lyme disease in humans, and frequent roadside accidents.
Cardelus said, "When we surveyed people, both in the town and village, overwhelmingly they agreed it was a problem. Seventy-three percent said they think the deer population should be reduced and 89 percent said they had a negative interaction with deer within the past 10 years."
McGee along with her classmates, recommended management efforts ranging from the revitalization of a Citizens Task Force (CTF) that sets deer population goals, to working with the Department of Environmental Conservation to provide more antlerless deer tags for hunters, to a culling approach that would involve trained marksmen working in approved areas and under strict safety guidelines.
The students said they hope their academic research can be used as a first step for local officials to determine the appropriate course of action in a way that involves the entire community. Cardelus said the findings of the class will be posted on the website for the Upstate Institute for future reference.