Views from the East Side Nature Preserve

Views from the East Side Nature Preserve


Mike Roberts

Father’s Day, June 15, 2014, 6 a.m. Two deer are walking down Dogwood Lane in Meriden, cross over onto the front yard of Dave and Lois Wetmore, eat some of their hostas, destroying the plants and then, somehow, get into their fenced in backyard and dine on some impatiens they had planted.

The two deer then sauntered back onto Dogwood Lane, crossing the yards of our other neighbors, Adam Kelley and Jim and Dee Williams, before heading up Woodmere Knoll towards Reynolds Drive.

Two days later, Edna and I are having supper on our back deck and she nudges me in the arm and nods toward a patch of trees that separate our backyard from the connector to the Berlin Turnpike. A small deer — more than likely a yearling — is making its way slowly through the thin patch of woods to only it knows where, and about 20 minutes later another yearling comes along the same route.

This one somehow caught the attention of our dog Lily and she made a beeline for it, barking hysterically as the young deer trotted away.

As amazing as it might sound, deer coming by our backyard here on Dogwood Lane have become quite common. In fact, we had as many as seven of them at one time visiting us on a regular basis during the snowy months of winter as they moved about in the search for food.

In all of the years that I lived in the Village of South Meriden, I had never seen the number of deer that I am seeing since we moved to Dogwood Lane on the east side of Meriden.

And it is not only deer that we are seeing. We had a black bear come through last year and we have recorded seeing a couple of wild turkeys, a coyote, a couple of red fox, raccoons, possums, rabbits squirrels and more skunks than I care to count, not to mention hawks and an eagle!

Some of our highways and roads in the Meriden area have become a “killing ground” for whitetailed deer, not to mention the damage that is done to vehicles as well as human bodies in these encounters. Deer have been involved with numerous area crashes and killed on Research Parkway, Route 15, 91 and 691, as well as many of back roads in Meriden and surrounding areas.

It seems that over the past 50 years or so, whitetailed deer have adopted to our changing environment and like what they are finding. The deer have no problem adopting to the increase in housing, especially in the suburban areas that have small patches of woods for the deer to rest in before they go out in the evening hours (and sometimes even in daylight) in a search for food.

At first, new residents to certain suburban areas thought that it was really neat seeing deer in their backyards and, as strange as it may seem, even though I am a hunter, I get a kick out of seeing an occasional deer on the other side of our backyard fence. BUT: They can also become a pain in the butt!

A couple of years ago, I had a friend of mine plant a couple of tiger lilies by our mailbox here on Dogwood Lane. I watered and nurtured them into maturity and marveled at the beautiful flowers they produced.

Then the next morning we awoke to find that the flowers had been removed from the stems of the plants. At first I thought that someone walking by might have liked their looks and taken them, but our neighbor Dave Wetmore called me up and asked, “Did you hear those two deer on your front lawn last night?”

When I said we did not, Dave replied, “They were right under your window and then walked over toward your mailbox before going out of sight down the street.”

At least that solved the mystery of what had happened to our beautiful lilies.

Up until this Father’s Day we had little or no other incidents with the deer in the neighborhood until they ate the Wetmore plants. It would seem that with all of the newborn fawns coming into the whitetail world the yearlings are moving out and looking for greener pastures so to speak, only the “pastures” are whatever they find edible in suburban yards.

As I said earlier, many newcomers to suburbia and even further into the country thought that it was rather neat to have a couple of deer pay them a visit every once in awhile, and then things really hit the proverbial fan. Once established, deer are quite prolific and their numbers continued to climb. When overpopulated, and this is common, they even achieve a reputation for becoming a nuisance rather that appreciated wildlife.

Some friends and I were invited to come down to the town of Wilton here in Connecticut to see if we could not help eliminate, or at least help with the problem, by harvesting some of the deer with our bows and arrows.

The resident deer had become so brazen they even came up onto porches and decks of some of the homes in the area and munched on whatever greenery was available, even potted plants. On top of that, many residents had been bitten by ticks and some had even came down with the dreaded Lyme Tick disease!

The odd thing about the whole setup is that we were virtually hunting right in the homeowners’ backyards. Wwe did have signed permission slips to do so, but the folks that signed our permission slips did so with the hope that we would take out as many deer as possible.

Over the years we have taken a number of deer out of the area and the homeowners cheer ever time a deer is tagged. While we were in our treestands hunting, we were able to watch the homeowners as they went about their everyday lives because the deer were that close to the homes. Bowhunting offered the only hope they had to get the deer numbers down.

What makes this situation even more interesting is the fact that back in the 40s and 50s, even though there were some deer in our areas, their numbers were quite acceptable to the general public. The numbers were low and there was also plenty of room for them because of the lack of homes and industries on the lands that they lived on. In fact, when you think about it, it is even more amazing when you realize that deer were almost non-existent right up t the early 1900s.

Another amazing fact is that a deer population left alone (no hunting) can almost double each year. One only has to look at Bluff Point and other isolated deer herds to see that this is true.

Even here in the Meriden area and in South Meriden, where I spent most of my life I the outdoors, the deer did not start to show an increase until the late 60s and middle 70s, and then it was like magic that they began to be seen just about wherever, but nowhere like it is today. I have even received reports of deer sightings in the inner city.

As for the rapid increase in the deer population, Connecticut outdoor writer Ed Ricciuti, in his new book “Bears in the Backyard,” tells of a 2009 report by the Northeast Deer Technical Committee that referred to a study at the George Reserve in southern Michigan, which tracked a deer herd that grew from 10 to 212 in a five-year period.

Deer/vehicle collisions are one of the main concerns when an overpopulation of whitetail deer takes place. Insurance companies end up paying millions of dollars to policy holders who have been unfortunate enough to have hit a deer in their travels. Almost always the cost to repair the damage is well over $1,000 and, according to statistics, as many as 200 humans lose their lives in incidents involving deer each year.

Whitetailed deer do not know that they are supposed to stay off of our highways! Over the years, I have logged an unbelievable number of miles through Connecticut and New York and have seen deer in numbers that would boggle the minds of folks who hardly ever gets to see a deer (unless they hit one).

A number of years ago, a gent called me to complain that he had hit a deer in Wallingford that damaged his car and he had no collision on the vehicle. His complaint was that the state would not pay for the damage.

The bottom line on that is, if you do not have a collision policy on your vehicle and hit a deer, you are out of luck! The money will be coming out of your pocket.

And believe me when I tell you, a deer/vehicle collision is not a minor event. I have seen them total out a motor vehicle.

To date, hunting has been the main tool of the DEEP Wildlife Division to control the numbers of deer in Connecticut and they have done a commendable job of it. For my money, we here in Connecticut are very fortunate to have one of the best Wildlife Divisions going.

It is also a well known fact that animal rights groups vehemently oppose hunting of any kind and will do anything to abolish hunting everywhere. They have no reasonable answer as to what would happen if they are ever successful in their efforts to end hunting, but this has been tried before and was disastrous beyond description.

Hey, I’m running out of space, but next week I’d like to tell you about that new book on the market titled “Bears in the Backyard” by Connecticut author Ed Ricciuti. See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.

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