Police kill deer in downtown Buffalo

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Deer bring dangers of the wild into heart of city

By JOHN F. BONFATTI, Buffalo News Staff Reporter.

11/24/2001



ROBERT KIRKHAM/Buffalo News
Deer, like this one trapped amid docks stored in a parking lot at Erie Basin Marina, are becoming more numerous - and posing more hazards - in the city.

Frank Poincelot reluctantly took out his gun and killed the injured buck that startled onlookers as it strolled through Erie Basin Marina during lunch hour earlier this month.
"I hate putting them down like that," the city's chief animal control officer said, adding that he tries to tranquilize and relocate deer whenever possible.

"But I've got a parking lot right there, the Marine Drive apartments and all these people around. Any good-sized deer will take out a person running," he said, noting that the six-point buck weighed 175 to 200 pounds. "It's a dangerous situation."

And not particularly unusual these days. Once confined to the rural areas outside the city, deer now roam some of the busiest streets and neighborhoods.

Large numbers of roaming deer invariably lead to collisions with cars. Lt. Larry Baehre, city police spokesman, said Buffalo doesn't keep statistics on such collisions, and statistics from the state Department of Motor Vehicles on animal-car crashes don't identify the animals involved.

But the state Department of Environmental Conservation keeps track of how many deer are removed from the roads after being hit by vehicles. Last year, 481 deer carcasses were taken from Erie County roads, the third highest total in the state behind St. Lawrence County, with 728, and Oneida County, with 559.

The county total does not include Buffalo, which doesn't keep a deer carcass count. Overall, 9,253 dead deer were removed from state roadways last year, which actually amounted to a decrease of 1,229 from 1999.

Of the 162 accidents the Erie County Sheriff's Department investigated last month, 42 involved collisions with deer, according to Sgt. Brad Roth.

Even experienced drivers are not immune, he said, noting, "I think we've had six of our patrol cars damaged severely in the last month."

For motorists who think of deer only when they see "deer crossing" signs in the country, coming across them in the city can be an expensive and dangerous shock. Car-deer accidents can result in thousands of dollars of damage and serious injuries or worse.

"I still get from people, "What are they doing here? They should be out in the country,' " Poincelot said. "They're quite shocked at the fact that they're here."

Including the Erie Basin Marina episode, city authorities have answered calls involving at least four deer in recent weeks.

One morning, Buffalo police had to shoot and kill a deer wandering along busy Oak Street downtown, headed toward the Niagara Thruway.

A week earlier, police received separate calls - about a half hour apart - of two deer roaming the area near Buffalo State College.

One, an eight-point buck, had crashed around inside a vacant home on Potomac Avenue before officers shot it near the Scajaquada Expressway and Grant Street. The other, a doe, attempted to cross the Scajaquada and was struck by a car before it was destroyed.

The call at the Erie Basin Marina was the seventh deer call Poincelot said his office has fielded since July, and the 27th since January.

"We're talking about a 15 percent increase in deer calls over last year," he said.

More are likely. October, November and December are the busiest months for the state's ever-growing deer population, which the DEC estimates at 1 million.

It is rutting season, when a biological imperative compels bucks to look for suitable does. Does also are on the move, seeking suitors or avoiding unwanted ones.

Monday marked the start of the state's big-game hunting season. The presence of hunters in the woods also prompts deer herds to scramble out of the line of fire.

The prohibition on hunting in the city and parts of several nearby suburbs contributes to the expansion of the city's deer population, according to John Curtiss, DEC senior wildlife technician.

To Curtiss, aerial surveys and reports of car-deer collisions indicate the deer population in this no-hunting zone is growing 5 percent to 10 percent a year.

"They will occupy every bit of habitat that's available and continue to expand into new areas," he said. "When they do that, they find themselves in areas where they do not belong or cannot be tolerated."

Most of the increase "is coming from reproduction within the resident deer population in Buffalo," added Ken Roblee, a DEC wildlife biologist.

Tifft Nature Preserve probably has the city's highest concentration of deer, Karen Wallace, the preserve's director, has watched as more and more crowd into a habitat that really can't support them.

An aerial count about eight years ago came up with 12 deer in the preserve, and Wallace estimates the population at least has doubled. Occasionally, it spikes much higher.

"We've counted as many as 75 deer at one time," she said. "In the winter, they do seem to yard up here at Tifft."

People love to see the deer, Wallace said, but the preserve lacks food to support a large population.

"The numbers have not made it so they are not very healthy," she said, adding that the park discourages people from feeding deer because they become too dependent. "You can see the ribs on some of them."

Wallace also said vegetation has suffered.

"We're really hurting as far as deer damaging our trees," she said. "They have eaten a lot of our dogwood and some of our spring wildflowers."

Poincelot said smaller populations can be found elsewhere in the city, including the areas around Times Beach near the Coast Guard station and around Rebecca Park in Riverside.

Those who study deer say the animals often find their way into the city using a vast network of railroad lines, which allow for unencumbered movement. The area around those lines also provide food and cover.

"The rail lines appear to be an important means for transporting these deer into and outside the city," Roblee said. "It's a nice linear corridor that's connected."

On roadways, many accidents could be avoided if drivers paid attention for clues, according to Marilyn Bensley of the Western New York Urban Wildlife Society.

"Deer eyes reflecting in your headlights are usually the first warning that deer are ahead," she said. "Slow down when approaching deer standing along the roadside; they may bolt at the last second into the road."

Deer crossing signs are posted in areas that have had a high number of accidents. If one deer bolts onto the road, others might not be far behind. Dusk and dawn, when the highest number of deer usually are active, requires special vigilance.

Apply the brakes if a deer suddenly appears on the road ahead, but do not swerve to avoid it. "Far more people are injured or killed when they swerve to avoid a deer and hit something else," Bensley said.

"People have to be reminded that there's a lot they can do to avoid hitting deer, which will prevent human injury and suffering to the deer," she said.


e-mail: jbonfatti@buffnews.com

 



Passthru

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  2 words to those people:  Archery control,I do not feel sorry for these people,they brought it upon themselves by not allowing hunters to thin the herd and keep it that way.
 


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