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6. Attend meetings of the Cayuga Heights Village Trustees
The Village Trustees are the decision makers. Consider attending these public meetings and letting the trustees know your questions and concerns.
Village Trustee meetings are open to the public and are held at 7 PM on the second Monday of every month.
Monday, August 9 at 7 PM Cayuga Heights Fire Station, 194 Pleasant Grove Rd, Ithaca, NY
An important hearing on the fencing issue is happening tonight in Cayuga Heights. Please urge the trustees to PERMANENTLY amend the village fencing ordinance to allow all residents to construct tasteful deer fences. The current proposed amendment, for which the public hearing is being held, only allows deer fences for the next 5 years, and includes limitations that would prevent many people who want to from erecting fences by creating unnecessary barriers for those with smaller properties and odd shaped lots. The amendment as written is cynical, as the idea is to temporarily assuage the anger of people who are frustrated about being forbidden to put up a fence, but by making the modification of the fencing ordinance temporary, the concocted “need” to have a deer-killing program is maintained. What is most tragic about this course of action is that if passed as written, it sets the stage for creating two community conflicts over the next five years. First, there will be widespread conflict in the community when the trustees actually attempt to carry out their dangerous and controversial mass shooting of deer in people’s back yards. Second, five years from now, gardeners that have enjoyed the protection of fencing will once again feel violated when they are told to take their fences down. When they are forced to do so, their now mature plantings will be made accessible, drawing in deer from neighboring municipalities, restarting the rancorous conflict all over again.
Here are some reasons that a permanent, less-restrictive amendment to the fencing ordinance is needed:
The residents who are most frustrated with the deer will finally get the relief they are seeking
It’s more reliable to keep deer out of gardens with fences than to slaughter a lot of deer and expect those who survive not to continue grazing in people’s yards
Restricting access to gardens will decrease the food supply for deer, leading to a reduction in population over time
The cost of alleviating deer-human conflicts should be borne by individuals who are unhappy with the deer, rather than by all the village tax payers, many of whom oppose having their taxes raised to fund an annual backyard deer-killing program.
A sensible fencing ordinance will reduce the rancor within our community, allowing neighbors with diverse opinions about deer to harmoniously co-exist
In the rest of Ithaca, deer fences are allowed and there is no controversy over the deer like there is in Cayuga Heights
March for Compassion a Success!
Many thanks to the committed citizens who turned out for the Ithaca Festival parade last week to join our March for Compassion! About 20 people of all ages carried signs and banners while our friend, the dancing deer, entertained the crowd with his humorous antics. Luckily, the rain held off and thousands of people showed up to watch the procession. We were thrilled to see many in the crowd cheering as we walked by, giving the thumbs up and eagerly accepting the informational pamphlets we were handing out -- proof that there is plenty of support in our community for an alternative to killing deer in Cayuga Heights.
Many thanks to Scott Teel (the dancing deer) for taking the initiative to make this March for Compassion happen, and for being willing to dress up in a hair suit on a hot, muggy day to help get the point across!
Fences are preferable to killing
Three months ago, the Town of Ithaca passed an amendment to its fencing ordinance to allow extensions of fence heights (up to 8 feet along property lines), provided the extra height is made up of material that is 90% see-through. This amendment sailed through with unanimous support and no opposition.
Just over the municipal boundary in Cayuga Heights, a similar measure has been proposed by residents to the mayor and trustees, the idea being that it would allow frustrated gardeners to protect their yards, promoting peaceful co-existence between neighbors with differing sentiments about the deer, while also eliminating the dangers that would accompany an annual ritual of shooting animals in a densely populated community. To date, the current board of trustees has rejected these proposals from its residents, and instead they have stated their intention to strictly enforce the current fencing ordinance, which will mean that many people who already built fences to protect their yards from deer browsing will be ordered to tear them down.
The fact that the trustees are doing this is further angering and dividing the community, as it is artificially creating a “need” to exterminate nearly all the deer in Cayuga Heights, a course of action that is going to mire not only Cayuga Heights, but the larger community as well, in turmoil for many years to come. Concerned citizens have pointed out to the trustees that the Town of Ithaca, which simply allows residents who choose to the right to erect practical fences, doesn’t have a huge, divisive deer killing controversy. People with differing points of view peacefully co-exist with each other and with our indigenous wildlife.
Is a win-win solution for Cayuga Heights being deliberately sabotaged by the trustees due to their single-minded obsession with killing?
Outsiders and vermin?
A large group of people again gathered at this month’s Cayuga Heights trustees meeting to demonstrate their support for the individual deer whose lives are at stake. See photos here.
Mayor Gilmore was not present, so Deputy Mayor David Donner presided over the meeting. He called on Cayuga Heights residents to speak first, most of whom were against a deer-killing program, and all of whom spoke in support of changing the fencing ordinance to allow higher, nearly see-through deer-proof fences so residents would be empowered to protect their yards from being browsed by deer. Even though this common sense measure would go a long way toward reducing deer-human conflict in Cayuga Heights, with no cost to the taxpayers, the trustees have not shown much interest in it, and Mayor Gilmore has even stated before that once the deer-killing program gets underway, he intends to strictly enforce the existing fencing ordinance, actually ordering people to tear down current fences that are in violation of code.
After the Cayuga Heights residents had their say the meeting, Deputy Mayor Donner opened the privilege of the floor to “outsiders” -- that’s how he labled those of us who live in this community but don’t happen to be Cayuga Heights residents. As people gave their comments, he used this term again and again: “Any more comments from outsiders?” he would ask. One of these “outsiders” is a 40-year resident of our community who came to the meeting to say she has vibrant gardens and has learned to live in harmony with the deer. Another “outsider” is a businesswoman in Ithaca who expressed strong opposition to the killing. Another “outsider” is an Ithaca mother who is concerned that a deer-killing program sends a terrible message to our community’s children. Another “outsider” asked whether there isn’t enough violence in our society already? And yet another “outsider” told the trustees they are living in a bubble if they think that Cayuga Heights’ actions don’t impact the rest of us.
As has been the case at nearly every meeting, the overwhelming majority of comments on Monday were made by people steadfastly against a deer-killing program.
Following the meeting, we asked one of the trustees if he personally would shoot a fawn. He responded that he would do so if the animal “needed” it, if the animal were “vermin.” It’s interesting to note that, historically, the label of “vermin” has been applied to certain groups of humans, and has been associated with the process of marginalization that precedes mass killing. Deep down, people know that luring these gentle animals to a bait site with food and then shooting them down en masse is unjust and violent. But by labeling them “vermin,” the individual animals are no longer the subject of moral consideration. They become mere objects to be killed, removed, sanitized away.
‘Outsiders’ and ‘vermin’
Doesn’t this really get to the heart of the issue? To at least some of the Cayuga Heights trustees, people in our community who live beyond their borders are considered “outsiders.” To those who resent, and perhaps even hate the deer for coming into their unfenced yards full of ornamental plantings, these sentient animals -- who have no other place to go because their habitat has been decimated by over-development -- are considered “vermin.” Many who have observed this situation ask if this type of language, and the violent approach to conflict resolution that comes with it, is the right direction for our community to be heading in. Clearly, there is a much better way, and we can find it together.
Photos from Monday's protest
Dozens of protesters and dancing deer make TV news. Trustees unmoved.
Monday's protest drew more than 25 participants, including a dancing deer! Both the Ithaca Journal and Channel 10 News covered the lively event. Sadly, despite the great turnout, the many passionate public comments, and the growing media coverage, the mayor and trustees showed no sign of interest in what the overwhelming majority of meeting attendees were trying to communicate.
Instead of listening to their constituents, and many other Ithaca residents who are outraged by their deer-killing plan, the trustees chose to take matters in a more drastic direction, reducing the numbers of deer who may be allowed to live to as low as 20 (instead of 60, as the original plan recommended), and counting the sterilized deer from a previous program in that number so they can get to the killing as soon as possible. So Cayuga Heights' "deer remediation" program is looking more and more like a deer extermination program, with the mayor and trustees hoping to annihilate all but these 20 or so deer in one year, which could happen as soon as this winter if they are not stopped.
Killing an estimated 120-180 deer in one year is a massive undertaking for a village the size of Cayuga Heights. It will require a lot of shooters and bait sites and will be a major disruption to the community. It’s also dangerous and morally reprehensible to many to have a massacre at this scale. It’s unfortunate that none of the local media coverage has given people a sense of how large-scale and intense an undertaking this is. In Rochester Hills, Michigan, for example, they had at least four police snipers shooting in a small park for four or more hours a day, and after three days, they had killed a total of 16 deer. With the target kill numbers Cayuga Heights is going for, imagine how many shooters, days and square area this will involve! After the first three days of the bait-and-shoot operation in Rochester Hills, which included a startled deer running into a roadway and causing an accident, outraged citizens overwhelmed the City Council and they had to shut the program down.
People deserve to get the full picture of what is being proposed. Why unnecessarily kill animals, stir up outrage, waste tax dollars, and create acrimony between neighbors, when all of this can be prevented by giving people a realistic sense of what they should expect from a massive wildlife killing program? One of the reasons there’s a great divide in this community over this issue is that people have different understandings of what Cayuga Heights is actually proposing. It's up to us to educate our fellow citizens and encourage them to get involved NOW, before it's too late!
All but 20 deer may be killed in Cayuga Heights
The latest news is that the Cayuga Heights trustees are now lowering the number of deer they will allow to live to as low as 20 (all of whom will be sterilized), and they want to speed up the killing process, killing more deer sooner than their original plan proposed.
A reliable source tells us that this is due to their wanting to save money, as they will have to hire a person each year to oversee the process, and if they can kill more deer faster, they can pay out less money to this employee over time. You may have heard that the 10-year projection was that they’d be paying $1 million for their deer-killing plan and as a result, have to raise taxes by 5%. So this is how they propose reducing costs — kill more deer more quickly and allow fewer to live, as sterilization is more expensive than killing.
Meanwhile, far cheaper non-lethal approaches to reducing human-deer conflicts exist, and are proven to be successful (learn more here). Yet, the mayor and trustees will not open their minds wide enough to save the tax payers money by trying these alternative approaches, nor have they indicated a willingness to consider changing the fencing ordinance to allow residents to adequately protect their gardens.
You can read the latest Ithaca Journal article, titled "Cayuga Heights wants to speed culling process," here.
It’s important to understand that this is essentially an extermination plan, and the massacre they are proposing — to be carried out in residents’ back yards — will be violent, bloody and a disgrace to our community.
Mayor Gilmore makes unfounded claims about deer in media
On Wednesday, CayugaDeer.org spokesperson James LaVeck was interviewed by WSTM TV (Syracuse) to provide balance for an interview they were doing with Cayuga Heights mayor Jim Gilmore about the deer situation. The news story, which aired later that evening, reported Mayor Gilmore as saying there are up to 300 deer in Cayuga Heights.
According to the Chair of the Deer Remediation Advisory Committee herself, the last time the deer were counted was in 2006, and at that time, it was estimated that there were 147 in the village. There hasn’t been another deer count since, so nobody knows how many there are now.
With deer-vehicle accident rates having gone down substantially last year (6 reported in police records at the end of 2008, as compared to 12 reported in 2007, and 11 in 2006), it’s disingenuous for the mayor to imply that the deer population has doubled since 2006. The mayor’s exaggerated claims were only underscored by the fact that the news reporter and his camera person, despite their best attempts, had trouble finding any deer to shoot footage of. “While we were there,” remarked reporter Jim Kenyon, “we could only scare up one, which escaped our camera lens.”
Sadly, this is not the first time the mayor has offered up unfounded statements to the media in support of his efforts to portray the deer situation in Cayuga Heights as some sort of dramatic crisis. Last Fall, he was reported in The Ithacan (Ithaca College’s newspaper) as stating that deer caused 25 deer-vehicle accidents in the village in 2008. “This is a record number for us,” he told the reporter. “When you have so many deer, the chances of car accidents are greater.” Yet, as stated above, the report prepared by Cayuga Heights’ own police department indicated there were only 6 deer-vehicle collisions reported by the end of 2008, which amounts to a four-fold inflation of the data by the mayor. (You can see the source of the mayor’s statements here).
When members of the media are too busy to check facts, statements like these get passed off as truth, and viewers will never know the difference. In this case, a public policy decision with far-reaching consequences for our community hangs in the balance. It’s up to us to hold public officials accountable. Please contact Mayor Gilmore and ask him what data exist to back up his statement that there are currently up to 300 deer living in Cayuga Heights. He can be reached by email, or by phone at (607) 257-5536.
People protest, deer comment ban reversed, "draft" kill program approved
More than 20 people peacefully protested outside Marcham Hall last Monday evening, as the trustees arrived for their monthly meeting, along with members of the public who were attending.
When the meeting began, the protesters brought their signs inside and stood witness to the proceedings. The trustees acquiesced to the protesters, reversing their ban on public comments about the deer issue under the condition that Cayuga Heights residents were given priority, and that comments would go on for no longer than a total of 30 minutes. Many eloquent statements followed from people who are opposed to the killing, who again greatly outnumbered those speaking out in favor of it.
The Ithaca Journal covered the meeting and protest. You can read Krisy Gashler’s story here.
Against all reason, thetrustees approved a “draft” plan to sterilize 30-60 deer and kill the rest At this stage, having approved the draft plan, the trustees are proceeding with preparation of paperwork for an environmental impact assessment in order to fulfill New York State’s SEQR (State Environmental Quality review) requirements. The next step in this process will have the trustees issuing a form that will, among other things, reveal whether they deem that their plan will have a significant or insignificant environmental impact. If they deem it insignificant, the road will be paved for rapid approval and implementation of their plan. If they deem it significant, they will then need to prepare a full environmental impact assessment and also hold at least one public hearing to collect the community’s input on the environmental issue. Those who wish to learn more about the SEQR process can visit the SEQR pages from New York state.
Deputy Mayor Donner’s bizarre statement Surprisingly, the only trustee who opposed approval of the draft plan was Deputy Mayor David Donner, who was the original chair of the deer committee and has from the beginning been a staunch proponent of a killing program. But it is not the killing that Mr. Donner objects to. In his strongly worded statement, he criticized the sterilization component of the plan, saying, “Horses and deer are creatures that panic. To trap and hold them for hours or days in cages or nets is inhumane. To subject them to an unnatural and unnecessary surgery is also inhumane. I ask for a swift and honorable death for the deer, just as I do for horses."
It’s interesting that Mr. Donner finds being lured to a bait site along with fellow herd members to be shot down by high-powered rifles an honorable death for any animal, not to mention a fawn or pregnant doe. He appears to confuse the idea of euthanasia — putting a terminally ill or severely injured animal out of his or her misery for reasons of compassion — with the methodical snuffing out of the lives of healthy animals who most certainly wish to live. Were Mr. Donner or anyone else to perform a mass shooting of healthy young horses in our community, it is hard to imagine anyone describing this as an honorable death, or an honorable act. His statement is emblematic of the contorted reasoning that has surrounded the Cayuga Heights deer-killing program from the start. On the positive side, perhaps Mr. Donner’s statement opens the door to much needed community dialog about the moral and ethical dimensions of wildlife killing programs.
Financial projections show the plan will cost approximately $1 million over the next 10 years While their draft plan was approved in order for the required SEQR environmental impact review process to begin, for the first time, the trustees have begun discussing the nuts and bolts of what implementing this plan might mean. $418,000 is expected to be spent in the first three years alone. To learn more, read this Ithaca Journal article by Krisy Gashler.
As they go further into the details, the inevitable truths are being revealed: This killing plan is dangerous, divisive, expensive and absolutely unnecessary. But as we all know, it’s entirely possible for such an ill-advised course of action to become government policy. This is why the collective wisdom and moral strength of our community must come into play, to prevent this tragedy from occurring.
To pay for their deer-killing plan, Cayuga Heights may have to raise taxes of residents by 5% It is yet to be seen if those residents keen to have the deer killed are going to be able to convince all the other residents to pick up the tab for them. In light of the news about the tax increase, we cannot help but wonder whether more people will begin to grasp the practicality of simply changing the fencing ordinance to allow those having the most conflict with deer to protect their gardens, and of providing residents with comprehensive education and consulting on plant choices and the use of deer repellents. These techniques are already being successfully used by many residents in Cayuga Heights and the wider Ithaca community who have learned to live in harmony with the deer. Isn’t it more sensible to apply resources directly where the conflict is occurring, thereby saving the tax payers an enormous amount of money, sparing the community the acrimony and division a killing program will produce, and providing immediate relief to those most frustrated by the presence of the deer?
Today a blog post about the Cayuga Heights deer situation appeared on Change.org, an online hub and media network for a variety of social issues including global warming, women’s rights, gay rights, poverty in America, humanitarian relief, universal health care and animal rights, among others.
State conservation and wildlife agencies are no help in these situations because, as James astutely points out, "they have a vested interest in maintaining the view that free living animals are not individuals with a right to respect, but rather an element of a collective resource to be 'managed' and exploited for fun and profit." These agencies--including New York's Department of Environmental Conservation--don't want to see the success of violence-free, no-kill plans (and the end, for example, to payments for hunting licenses).
So with certainly no help on the way from the state, and with the mayor and trustees of Cayuga Heights refusing to listen to concerned residents, it's time for animal advocates from all communities to speak up and oppose the Cayuga Heights plan and the trustees' ban on public comment and refusal to consider humane alternatives. We need to tell them that such a violent, unwarranted substitute for a real solution is no more acceptable for the deer of Cayuga Heights than it would be for the animals in our own communities.
Stephanie urges her readers to sign our petition, which also automatically sends out emails with the petition text to Cayuga Heights Mayor Gilmore and trustees Kate Supron and Bea Szekely. So far, we’ve received more than 350 signatures toward our goal of 1,000 by the September meeting of the Cayuga Heights Board of Trustees. If you haven’t signed it yet (and this is a different petition than the one we have been collecting signatures for at Greenstar), please do so now.
And please urge your friends and those in your social network to sign it as well. While the decision-makers in Cayuga Heights have voted to silence us at their meetings, they cannot shut out the voices of people all across the world. There are people participating from as far away as Australia, Brazil and Bulgaria. Let’s keep the momentum going. Cayuga Heights needs to understand that the world is watching, and that it’s not too late to pursue proven, non-violent alternatives to their unsafe, unnecessary and unethical deer-killing plan.
WENY TV: Village Board Bans Deer Discussion
Last night's WENY TV newscast led with a story about the controversial decision by Cayuga Heights' mayor and trustees to ban public comment on the deer issue at upcoming meetings. You can view video of this news story here. Here is an excerpt from their written transcript:
Mayor Jim Gilmore says the election was a referendum on the deer issue -- and people want action. He says public comment goes on too long at meetings, and the village has other issues to attend to.
"It's become redundant, it's become unproductive," said Gilmore. "We decided that's not fair to all our other constituents that want to talk about ther things going on in this village."
"I think if things aren't getting done, that's a comment on the administration, not on the public coming and speaking for less than hour at a public meeting," said James Laveck of cayugadeer.org, a group that's against the remediation plan.
Laveck thinks banning public comments on the issue is a violation of democracy.
"I think that part of being a public servant and an elected official is to listen to what the public has to say," said Laveck.
It’s important to remember that Cayuga Heights’ deer-killing plan was only released in July, and since then, there has only been one opportunity for the public to address the Mayor and trustees about the proposal. 28 people respectfully gave comments over the course of 51 minutes at the July trustees meeting. 19 people opposed the killing of deer, 2 advocated for bow hunting over bait-and-shoot, and 7 supported the village’s deer-killing plan. Apparently, the Gilmore administration feels that 51 minutes of their time is too much to ask for the public to be able to comment on a proposal that will, for the next 5-10 years, bring armed men into our neighborhoods to bait and shoot animals in people’s back yards.
Media reports on Cayuga Heights' controversial banning of deer comments
Ted Fioraliso interviews Cayuga Heights resident Mary Tabacchi for WENY News.
Our local media has been busy covering the controversial decision by the Cayuga Heights mayor and trustees to ban public comment about the deer issue during the very timeframe in which the trustees will be voting to implement their dangerous and unethical bait-and-shoot deer killing program.
Tonight at 6 PM there will be a news story on Elmira’s WENY, channel 19. CayugaDeer.org’s James LaVeck was interviewed, along with Cayuga Heights resident Mary Tabacchi and Mayor Jim Gilmore.
Today’s Ithaca Journal published a story titled "Enough! Board bans deer discussion." Here is an excerpt:
Villager Mary Tabacchi, who opposes culling, said she thinks the board's decision is "undemocratic."
"There have been a lot of comments pro and con, letters pro and con, but most of those were before the specific proposal came forward," she said. "So it takes a couple hours out of a month to hear people express their feelings on a topic that is divisive. The people who are anxious - pro and con - when you pull out that ability to express it, I just think you're asking for trouble."
And this week’s Ithaca Times gave Cayuga Heights a “thumbs down,” saying:
Last month’s meeting of the Cayuga Heights village trustees saw a remarkable turnout of concerned citizens demonstrating opposition and resistance to the village’s proposed bait-and-shoot plan to mitigate its sizable deer population. Over the next two months, the board of trustees is expected to approve a plan that entails annually sending armed men into the neighborhoods to discharge weapons at undisclosed locations and times. It’s a plan that has people up in arms. But at their meeting on Monday, Mayor Jim Gilmore and the Cayuga Heights board of trustees voted unanimously to forbid local residents from making public comments on the deer issue for the next 60 days. That’s a big thumbs down right there, not only because it’s completely undemocratic — even though they do technically have the right to do it — but also because people are obviously upset. Tsk, tsk.
If you’ve been waiting on the sidelines until now, there’s never been a more appropriate time to write your letter to the editor or to make that phone call or send an email to the decision makers in Cayuga Heights. Here is their contact info
Cayuga Heights bans public comment on deer issue
At last month's meeting of the Cayuga Heights board of trustees, more people than ever before showed up to protest the shooting of deer in our community’s neighborhoods.
And what was the Gilmore administration’s response to this public outpouring of concern?
At yesterday’s noon-time meeting, MAYOR GILMORE AND ALL SIX CAYUGA HEIGHTS TRUSTEES VOTED UNANIMOUSLY TO FORBID LOCAL CITIZENS FROM MAKING PUBLIC COMMENTS ON THE DEER ISSUE for the next 60 days during the privilege of the floor portion of their August and September meetings.
We are not making this up. In other words, the citizens of this community will not be allowed to publicly address these “public servants” at the very meetings where they are expected to approve a plan that entails annually sending armed men into our neighborhoods to discharge deadly weapons at locations and times they have repeatedly stated will never be disclosed.
Having lost the argument based on facts, logic and ethics, it appears all that Mayor Gilmore and the trustees have left is the arbitrary exercise of power. Apparently, they are so determined to exterminate the wildlife of our community that they are willing to kill the democratic process as a means to an end.
As the video tape record will show, for nearly a year, members of the public who have spoken out against Cayuga Heights’ dangerous and unethical plan have done so with civility and respect, patiently adhering to all the rules and protocols set forth by the board of trustees. And now, our voice has been arbitrarily cut off.
This outrageous disrespect of our community and its traditions should not stand unchallenged. It’s up to each one of us to respond to this silencing of dissent. Without the public demanding accountability when those in office have abused their power, our democracy becomes meaningless.
There has never been a more important time to become involved and help preserve the values that define our community. Voltaire once wrote, “So long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so.”
Write to the papers, and write or call the mayor and trustees of Cayuga Heights to make them aware of what you think. Contact information can be found here.
Deer issue on Channel 10 news
Channel 10 News aired a story by reporter Tamara Lindstrom about Cayuga Heights’deer-killing plan. You can watch the story or read the transcript here. Excerpt:
"The people advancing the plan say that it is based on public safety and yet their plan consists of bringing teams of armed men into our neighborhoods. And they basically plan to have deadly force discharged in proximity to people's homes," said James LaVeck, founder of CayugaDeer.org.
LaVeck says the plan is too extreme and would rather see alternatives like better fencing, roadside warning systems and public education about managing deer.
Four letters opposing deer-killing plan
In response to the “Shot for a Tulip” op-ed, four letters appeared in the most recent Ithaca Times criticizing Cayuga Heights’ deer-killing plan. Here are some highlights:
“Ithaca is purported to be an enlightened community. The intolerance expressed by this group of people is anything but. The plan is so contemptible, dangerous and cruel; I cannot understand why any thinking human would approve it. Maybe that's the problem. They're not thinking.” --Anne Serling (this letter also appeared in the Ithaca Journal)
“Wildlife is a part of our life and yep we lose a few tulips some times (My Hosta's haven't made it to blossom in years because of deer). Do you think you in Cayuga Heights are so superior that you can just eradicate a species? ... Live with it, and enjoy the beauty that watching the wildlife brings, we do.” --Debby Sanford
“I am repeatedly struck by the style and language of the people advocating slaughter. They consistently remain cut off from the experience of being hurt and killed... Empathy is always absent when one advocates for destroying, mutilating, and killing others. The others become objects, not living and feeling beings, and then, anything is acceptable.” --Irene Muschel
“Yes, this community is losing its mind despite its education. It's not too late though to stop it from losing its heart.” --Prad Basu
Interestingly, people wrote in from Manhattan and Canada, so our local battle is gaining attention beyond the borders of Ithaca. It’s important to keep reminding the Cayuga Heights community that their unsafe, unethical, unrealistic and unnecessary deer-killing plan is also unacceptable to a majority of caring, thinking people around the world. You can submit letters to the Ithaca Times here and you can submit to the Ithaca Journal here.
Shot for a Tulip
This op-ed appeared in today's Ithaca Times:
Is one of the most educated communities in America losing its mind?
Cayuga Heights has been said to have the most Ph.D's per capita of any municipality in America. Yet today, its trustees are on the verge of approving an expensive, dangerous, and frankly bizarre plan that if put into effect, is certain to put a serious dent in our community's well-deserved reputation for sensible, compassionate, and forward-thinking public policy.
As most people in Ithaca know, there has been a controversy around the fate of the deer in Cayuga Heights, whose appetite for tulips, heirloom tomatoes, and ornamental shrubbery has, in the minds of the current mayor and trustees, created a situation so dire and unacceptable, that action of the most extreme sort is not only justified, but urgently required.
According to the plan now being considered, every single deer in the village is slated to be violated or killed. The first phase involves capturing 60 female deer, surgically sterilizing them, then puncturing their ears with numbered tags and encumbering their necks with radio collars. These are the "lucky" individuals. The intended fate of every other deer in Cayuga Heights, including pregnant does and fawns, is to be shot dead at 8 to 10 undisclosed bait sites in our neighborhood backyards. This annual massacre, to become a part of our local culture, will be carried out by out-of-town contractors who earn their living exterminating wildlife.
CayugaDeer.org spokesperson James LaVeck was interviewed by WENY reporter Ted Fioraliso about Cayuga Heights’ recently released deer-killing plan. You can watch the news story or read the transcript here. Excerpt:
Laveck says the village's plan isn't "remediation" -- it's out right killing -- and there are better ways to go about it. “The problem is the residents of Cayuga Heights have not been adequately supported by their local politicians in terms of getting access to information and techniques they need to live in harmony with local deer,” said Laveck.
Laveck says the fight is far from over, while Mayor Gilmore says he sees no end to the problem unless the village takes action. “The solution they're proposing is extreme, and it's going to create a much bigger problem than they're solving,” said Laveck.
Ted Fioraliso was fair in his reporting, especially given the very short time he had to learn about the subject and prepare a story. We’re grateful he made a real effort to present an alternative view on the subject. However, we wish he had included the safety concerns associated with bait-and-shoot programs, which James repeatedly brought up in his interview, including the memo from the Police Chief saying he could not guarantee the safety of the community if deer-killing contractors were brought in.
DRAC releases its proposal: sterilize 60 deer, kill all the rest
On June 8th, the Deer Remediation Advisory Committee (DRAC) released its long-awaited recommendation to the Cayuga Heights trustees. The essence of this four-page document can be boiled down to something like this:
We think there are just too many deer in the village. So we’re going to spend $100,000 or more of taxpayers’ money to first capture 60 of them and render them sterile, then bring in out-of-town contractors to kill every other deer we can find, including pregnant does and fawns, year after year.
According to DRAC's plan, every single deer in Cayuga Heights is slated to eitherbe killed or violated. The "lucky" individuals who will be spared a violent death will be captured, sterilized and released, their ears punctured by tags and and their necks burdened with radio collars. They will then have the annual experience of watching the other deer they have come to know be shot down in front of them. The children growing up in Cayuga Heights will soon realize that any deer without an ear tag is doomed to be killed, and that this is how we “handle” our conflicts with wildlife, rather than being open to adjusting our own behaviors and habits to enable us all to live in harmony together.
Specifically, DRAC’s “Report and Proposal”:
Fails to define the problem it claims to address, reducing a complex environmental and ethical issue to a “need to reduce the number of deer.”
Fails to present data to support its claims.
Fails to offer the public any sort of reasoned justification for annually bringing in out-of-town sharpshooters and/or bow-hunters to 10-12 undisclosed killing sites within Cayuga Heights.
Fails to explain how the mass-shooting of animals can be safely implemented within easy range of roadways, businesses and homes, when even the Chief of Police is on record saying that he cannot guarantee the safety of citizens if out-of-town deer-killing contractors are brought in.
Does not give serious consideration to the numerous cost-effective alternatives to killing that concerned citizens have brought forward, alternatives with a documented track record of success of reducing deer-human conflicts, opting instead to implement an extreme, costly, and highly controversial program.
Fails to adequately address the root of the conflict with deer. Any plan that does not devote substantial time and resources to educating the community about deer-resistant plants and about how to protect gardens and shrubs is unrealistic.
After months of meetings, after studying the subject in depth, after consulting with experts far and wide, and after hearing diverse opinions from community members, surely the members of the DRAC learned a great deal. So why would they choose to share almost none of what they discovered in their report — which is almost entirely lacking in substance?
What is such a committee to do when confronted with factual information that roundly discredits their original public safety claims put forward to justify killing the deer, except to act as if those facts simply don’t exist? It’s now been established that there is no evidence supporting their claim that the deer population is expanding out of control. It has also been shown that the rate of deer-car accidents has been in the same range for fifteen years or more, contrary to the Cayuga Heights Mayor’s claims in local media that they have dramatically escalated. Data from our county health department has also shown that Lyme disease rates in our community are well below average for New York state, and no one has produced scientific data linking infection rates with the number of deer in Cayuga Heights. Similarly, neither representatives of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology nor of the National Audubon Society are aware of any studies that validate claims made that deer are somehow harming birds or the ecosystem of Cayuga Heights. Given this, tax-payers should rightly be questioning the sanity of sending sharpshooters into our neighborhoods each year to defend tulips and heirloom tomato plants that could easily be protected with nearly invisible plastic netting and some deer repellent.
Louis Brandeis, a renowned Supreme Court justice, once said that “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” The fact of the matter is that the more people get informed and involved in the situation in Cayuga Heights, the more this costly and irresponsible plan will be exposed for what it is, and more sensible approaches will prevail. While the killing was temporarily delayed by our collective efforts, Mayor Gilmore’s hand-picked committee is following through on the same track he put them on last summer, offering up an ill-advised recommendation that will waste valuable tax dollars, put our citizens at risk, needlessly destroy the lives of animals, and undermine the peaceful, rational traditions of our community.
It's important to understand that DRAC's proposal has not yet been voted on, so the details could morph as the trustees see fit. For example, at their last meeting, Trustee Bea Szekely urged the board to reduce the number of deer allowed to live to no more than 40, and to speed up the killing program by one year. It is also important to recognize that the DRAC hopes to “coordinate” their deer-killing program with other municipalities, potentially spreading the damage their plan will cause to a wider area. That's why it's more important than ever that people become more informed and involved, even those residents who do not live in Cayuga Heights but will be affected should this ill-conceived plan move forward. You can attend the next Board of Trustees meeting to learn more and to make your voice heard. Here are the details:
Monday, July 20th at 7 PM Village Hall (same building as police station), 836 Hanshaw Rd., across from Community Corners Map
Safety concerns inadequately addressed at deer forum
The Q&A interchanges below, from the March 12th public forum on deer in Cayuga Heights, demonstrate the same pattern that has plagued the Deer Remediation Advisory Committee’s (DRAC’s) process from the very beginning: basic questions pertaining to the safety, ethics, and rationality of a bait-and-shoot plan are simply not addressed. Nearly every justification that was originally put forth by the DRAC and by Cayuga Heights’ Mayor Jim Gilmore for killing deer has now been shown to be either baseless or significantly weaker than it was presented to be. Yet still, a course of action that has been shown to be dangerous, unethical, and impractical continues to be proposed as a reasonable choice for the community.
The seriousness of the DRAC’s bias is demonstrated by the mailer they sent out earlier this month, which, in its cost/benefit analysis of various “Deer Management Options,” did not even list safety risks as a potential downside to a deer-killing program. Meanwhile, trivial objections were listed as disadvantages of non-lethal options, such as the need for “frequent reapplications” of deer repellants, or concerns about the “roadside aesthetics” of warning reflector systems that are proven effective at reducing deer-car collisions.
Cayuga Heights Police Chief Tom Boyce has told the DRAC in writing that he cannot guarantee the safety of the community if out-of-town shooters are brought in. And yet, for reasons that have never been given, the DRAC deemed this information not important enough to share with the public.
This interchange from the forum underscores the problem:
QUESTION posed to KATE SUPRON, Chair of the DRAC: On February 10, 2009, you received a memo from Chief Boyce indicating that he could not guarantee the safety of the community in the event of out-of-town sharpshooters are brought in. Why was this information not shared with the community in your mailer? Why did you not list safety risks as a disadvantage of kill options?
ANSWER given by KATE SUPRON:
This afternoon I went through some of the memos that Chief Boyce has provided us with about safety of the operations in the village, and I think that there are different ways to interpret what he has said. The proposal to potentially cull and kill the deer was developed by Chief Boyce and presented to former Mayor Walter Lynn who said he did not want to work with it. When Jim Gilmore came into office, Tom presented that proposal to him, and Jim thought, hey great, you know, this will work. And he got a committee together and we said, whoa, we need to back up and look at all the options again, even though we've been through the whole process.
In the initial proposal it had Tom, as the police chief, managing a culling operation using the village police force, and at that point, you had said -- you'd set a high number that we would need to be able to measure public support at, about, I think you said, up to 90%, is the amount of public support Tom wanted before he felt comfortable participating in that, because the police play an important role in our community and even -- if you think about it, even if there's just 10% of the people who are not behind the culling program, we grew to realize that that would put Tom -- Chief Boyce and the other officers at a disadvantage working with that portion of the community. So at that point we started looking at other options, including the contractor that we got a quote from, which is White Buffalo.
When I re-read the memo today from Tom about public safety and not being able to guarantee it, he was talking about the moment when, I believe, you're on the -- in the tree stand and you have to decide -- you, pulling the trigger are the one to decide whether it's a safe -- whether it's a safe bet or not. And he said there was no way he could guarantee that decision
unless he were doing the shooting. And what the memo that he wrote -- I did not read it, perhaps -- I mean, I did read it many times, I don't mean that -- I didn't read it to say that there was no way he could guarantee the safety of the village. He said that all local laws would be enforced, the people who would be coming in, he would work with them and help them set up their operation, but in terms of him saying that he didn't think he could guarantee the safety of the public, the reading of that that I had, and this long-winded explanation now, is that he said he would not be the one pulling the trigger, nor would his officers. So at that moment of decision, it's not him protecting the safety, it's the people that we've hired.
So why was the community not informed that there are safety risks associated with bringing in deer-killing contractors? And why were Chief Boyce’s reservations about this course of action kept
from the public? These questions were never answered.
QUESTION posed to panel:
It has been stated that lead bullets make venison unfit for human consumption. Since hunters ordinarily consume deer meat, is there any basis to this claim?
ANSWER by DAVE RIEHLMAN of the NYS DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION:
Okay. There's been a fair amount of media coverage in recent -- the last year or two, regarding some tests that were done from venison that was packaged for venison donation programs, and they did find some lead fragments in some of that processed ground meat. There's also been a few studies that looked at lead levels in humans, comparing people that regularly hunted and ate venison versus those that didn't. And I guess the bottom line is that the results of that study showed very minor differences in the lead levels in the people in the one study, actually were below kind of the national averages, so even though there was a little bit elevated levels of lead in some of the participants, it was not anything that was considered a health concern.
Ultimately, lead bullets, depending on the particular projectile and the rifle versus shotgun sort of thing -- high velocity projectiles from rifles, they do shatter on impact, and you can get some lead fragments that get into the meat. Properly processed animals, where you trim liberally around the wounds and whatnot, you greatly diminish the prospects that lead ends up in the meat that people are consuming. But, it's in some cases pretty darn hard to avoid it altogether. States are now developing recommendations for hunters to try to minimize any risk, low that it may be, in some cases even going so far as to suggest that people that are concerned about it hunt with a bow rather than with a firearm, or to use a shotgun --. a low velocity projectile -- rather than a rifle. So, ultimately, there is some lead ends up in some meat. By and large, the results of various studies suggests there's not a great risk to human health as a result of that, but it's something that, certainly people in our profession are paying a little more attention to now and trying to develop recommendations for hunters and others that consume venision.
Dr. William Cornatzer, a medical researcher at the University of North Dakota, found lead in 60% of samples of ground venison that had been donated to food programs (Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, 3/28/08). Dr. Cornatzer said, "It's been shown that children under five that ingest even small amounts of lead will have permanent brain damage." (KFYR-TV, 3/26/08) North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin recently discarded thousands of pounds of donated venison due to the discovery of lead contamination. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/16/08)
The question remains, if there is any chance of lead from bullets contaminating the flesh of deer killed in a bait-and-shoot program in Cayuga Heights, is it ethical to be giving that venison to area food banks?
With more than six months to make its case, the DRAC has failed to present any convincing evidence that the deer in Cayuga Heights pose such a threat to public safety that it justifies bringing a team of contracted deer shooters into our densely populated community, year after year. It’s extremely important that Cayuga Heights officials be held accountable for the questionable path they are leading our community down, and that informed citizens continue to press for answers to basic questions that are consistently being ignored or avoided.
Next week, the second and last public forum will be held on the deer issue. We hope you will join us.
Tuesday, March 31 at 7:30 PM, Kendal at Ithaca 2230 N. Triphammer Road Map
I'm hoping Cayuga Heights will learn from other communities that have implemented failed, lethal deer management programs. Here in Solon, Ohio, almost $1 million taxpayer dollars have been squandered on what was to be a two-year deer-killing plan. Now in its fifth year, this program cannot succeed because the more deer are killed, the more they reproduce, putting Solon on an unending treadmill of slaughter.
Solon hired White Buffalo, a contractor I understand Cayuga Heights is considering. Its founder compared killing deer to mowing the lawn, saying, "Once you mow it, you're always going to be mowing it," according to the Greenwich Times. A Solon public works official confirmed last year that the deer are indeed rebounding, and that deer-car accidents have increased.
Citizens have been arrested, neighbors are pitted against neighbors, children who witnessed the atrocity have been traumatized. Promises made by city officials have been broken. They assured us snipers would be shooting downward, only from tree stands. Yet witnesses have seen them shooting from the ground and back porches during the day, when children were getting off school buses.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer quoted Detective Alex Bakos, a trained sniper, saying, "This is insane. No expert could ever say shooting in a residential area is safe. There is little control. And once that bullet leaves the rifle there's no way to get it back."
Safe and humane alternatives do exist. I hope the decision-makers in Cayuga Heights will provide a positive example for other communities by implementing long-term, effective, non-lethal solutions. Lane Ferrante
In all the discussion about culling the deer herd in Cayuga Heights, one question has been overlooked: What effect would such a policy have on our children?
This question became more urgent when I read the letter from a Bedford, Ohio, resident who wrote that while deer have been killed in his community for the past five years, "children who witnessed the atrocity have been traumatized." When my daughters and I walk or drive around Cayuga Heights, we are always thrilled to see deer bounding through the woods.
The deer and other wildlife, including the flock of turkeys that roams around the neighborhood, are one of the reasons we enjoy living in Cayuga Heights.
While deer-car accidents are a concern, statistics from the Cayuga Heights police department show the rate of these accidents has actually fluctuated between two and 12 annually since 2003. As of Dec. 3, 2008, six deer-car accidents were reported for last year.
As a gardener, I sympathize with residents whose plants have been destroyed. Yet we can adapt to our environment by growing deer-resistant species and using deer-repellent spray. Even if the deer herd were culled, there would still be those left behind who would have more pickings to choose from in our gardens.
Cayuga Heights should follow the example of one of its neighbors - the Tompkins County SPCA, a no-kill shelter. Using non-lethal methods to control the deer herd would also send the right message to our children. Sherrie Negrea
Release of Freedom of Information Documents: Installment #1
On January 26th, CayugaDeer.org submitted a New York State Freedom of Information Law request to the Village of Cayuga Heights with the intent of restoring public access to some documents that had been published and then removed from the village web site, and also to bring forward numerous documents related to the deer issue which had not been, to our knowledge, previously publicly released. According to the New York State legislature, the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) has a purpose crucial to the health of our democracy:
The legislature hereby finds that a free society is maintained when government is responsive and responsible to the public, and when the public is aware of governmental actions. The more open a government is with its citizenry, the greater the understanding and participation of the public in government.
As state and local government services increase and public problems become more sophisticated and complex and therefore harder to solve, and with the resultant increase in revenues and expenditures, it is incumbent upon the state and its localities to extend public accountability wherever and whenever feasible.
The people's right to know the process of governmental decision-making and to review the documents and statistics leading to determinations is basic to our society. Access to such information should not be thwarted by shrouding it with the cloak of secrecy or confidentiality. The legislature therefore declares that government is the public's business and that the public, individually and collectively and represented by a free press, should have access to the records of government in accordance with the provisions of this article.
On March 2nd, the Village responded to CayugaDeer.org’s FOIL request by supplying several hundred pages of documents and emails, which are currently being analyzed. Already, several documents have been identified whose release is clearly in the public interest. (Note: some portions of the text of linked documents have been highlighted to correspond with the commentary below)
Document#1: 2/10/09 Cayuga Heights Police Dept. Memo from Chief Thomas L. Boyce to Deer Committee Members This memo on “involvement of Police Department in Culling Deer” is one of the most important documents to come to light so far in response to CayugaDeer.org’s FOIL request. In it, Chief Boyce refers to having received correspondence from Trustee Diana Riesman indicating her opinion that putting the police officers in the role of killing deer may damage the high regard in which the village police are held and that it may be problematic for children todiscover that the village police are killing deer. Regarding the potential implementation of a deer-killing plan in Cayuga Heights, Trustee Riesman further states:
Chief Boyce would, of course oversee and implement the plan and be able to guarantee the health and safety of our community comes first.
Chief Boyce responds with an extremely significant statement, one which carries extra weight given his known dedication to resident safety:
If the Village of Cayuga Heights were to sub-contract out the culling process "shooting deer" I do not think the contractor would want me dictating how they should operate. That's why we pay them to get the job done. Yes, I would make sure that all laws were adhered too. Making things safe for the community is, to a large part, making the decision to shoot or not shoot and if CHPD is not shooting I can not guarantee that safety.
So Chief Boyce, in this memo sent to all the members of the deer committee last month, has plainly stated that in the event the Village hires deer-killing contractors, he cannot guarantee the safety of the community. Yet, in their recent mailing, the deer committee did not reveal this information, and in fact, did not even list safety risks as a potential disadvantage of a bait and shoot program.
According to the date on this memo, this information was shared directly with the deer committee well before their mailing was sent out to the community. Given that, it is valid to ask why the employment of deer-killing contractors was even presented as a viable choice, especially since Chief Boyce could not guarantee public safety. Read complete document
This document details the policies and pricing for White Buffalo, a deer-killing contractor that has been contacted by Cayuga Heights officials. Along with this document, White Buffalo has also supplied a sample contract based on a deer-killing job they performed in New Jersey.
This document indicates that all deer will be targeted, including fawns and does (who may be pregnant). It also details some of the methods White Buffalo uses, shooting deer from vehicles using a spotlight at night, or from a tree stand during the day or night, using night vision equipment and silencers (where legal).
Members of the media and/or concerned citizens are not usually allowed to observe or document the killing activities of contractors such as White Buffalo. In fact, White Buffalo recently settled a lawsuit with a resident of Solon, Ohio who, according to the Solon Herald Sun, claimed “the city and White Buffalo conspired unlawfully to silence her and deprive her of her right to free speech.”
White Buffalo’s pricing sheet notes that they charge $200 per hour for court testimony, and $1000 per day for delays caused by animal rights protests and/or court injunctions. These line items indicate some of the additional liabilities that may accompany bringing controversial deer-killing contractors into a community. Read complete document
Document#3: 10/1/08 Cayuga Heights Police Dept. Memorandum from Chief Thomas L. Boyce to Mayor Jim Gilmore This document makes clear that statistics for “deer incidents” (which have been quoted frequently by proponents of deer-killing) can include situations where the police received a call about an injured deer but found nothing upon investigating. In fact, three out of nine, or 33% of the “incidents” mentioned in this memo were cases where officers were called, but found no injured animal upon arrival.
This is relevant because Mayor Gilmore has been quoted in local media describing numbers that include “incidents” as “deer-related car accidents”:
The Ithacan, Nov. 20, 2008: Tim [sic] Gilmore, mayor of Cayuga Heights, a village of Ithaca, said overpopulation of deer has caused 25 deer-related car accidents in the village in 2008.
“This is a record number for us,” he said. “When you have so many deer, the chances of car accidents are greater.”
[Note: According to Cayuga Heights police reports, as of Dec. 3, 2008, the number of documented deer-car accidents was 6, and the number of incidents was 15]
So, apparently, in this case, “incidents,” even those lacking evidence of a damaged vehicle, an injured animal, or eye-witness testimony verifying an actual deer-vehicle collision, have been represented to the public as “deer-related car accidents.”
In addition to shedding light on the origin of statistics that have been used to make the case for a bait-and-shoot program, this memo also details that one out of five mentioned cases in which injured deer were shot by CHPD officers, the deer had to be shot twice. If one in five deer shot at point blank range had to be shot two times to be killed, a valid question remains about how many deer would have to be shot multiple times under the unpredictable circumstances of a contractor shooting at a large number of deer from a distance during a bait-and-shoot program. In fact, an undercover investigation of one contractor’s bait-and-shoot operation showed wounded animals quivering and twitching on the ground for several minutes until they were suffocated by the placement of a plastic bag over their heads. There has also been documentary evidence collected of wounded animals running off to die in a location away from the shooting site. Read complete document
We encourage area–residents on all sides of the issue to review these documents and include the information within them in the process of developing an informed opinion on this issue. We will be releasing more documents as the process of analyzing them continues.
Three important letters in the Ithaca Journal
In the last few days, several important letters to the editor were published in the Ithaca Journal, calling into question the reasoning behind the push for a deer-killing program, the governmental process that led to this proposal, and the rationality and effectiveness of bringing a bait-and-shoot program into Cayuga Heights. Taken together, they provide a compelling case for less controversial, less expensive, non-violent alternatives.
This letter was written by Italia Millan, who lives in the Rochester Hills area, where a deer-killing operation was put into place, only to be called off after four days of shooting due to overwhelming public protest. Here’s an excerpt:
The killing was a disaster. Not only public opposition grew and the city got blasted with a lawsuit, protests and loads of negative media, but it also created an opportunity for authorities to -- willingly or unwillingly -- violate peaceful protesters' civil rights. The deer were shot in a park close to busy streets and subdivisions. No matter how good the snipers, accidents did happen. A frightened deer ran into traffic on the second day of shooting, causing a crash, and the blood covered snow in the park remained as clear evidence of some of the animals' long agony. Read complete text of letter
Elizabeth Mount is the only member of the Cayuga Heights Deer Remediation Advisory Committee (DRAC) who has not openly advocated for a deer-killing program. In this recent letter endorsing the three candidates of the Open Government Party for the three open positions on the Cayuga Heights Board of Trustees (election on Wednesday, March 18), she also confirms there are no statistically-backed safety threats being posed by deer in Cayuga Heights. This is highly significant, as the rationale given by the mayor and other DRAC members for killing deer is largely based on these alleged safety threats. Here is an excerpt:
The [Community Party] platform also notes the "serious safety problem" of deer overpopulation in the village. But statistics show little change in both county incidents of lyme disease (still among the lowest in the state) and the number of village deer/vehicle accidents.
Elizabeth also draws attention to the failed process that led to the deer committee’s proposal, announced last August (before she was added to the committee), to implement a deer-killing program in Cayuga Heights:
It's a desire for Open Government that has drawn villagers Karen Kaufmann, Nancy Green and Mary Tabacchi into this election, contesting a party which has not lived up to last year's promise that "every resident's" voice be heard. For instance, after promising that villagers would be publicly sought to serve on the deer study committee, appointments were made behind closed doors, and the committee's first report announced a recommendation to cull the deer would soon be sent to the trustees.
This coming election is about more than deer, but that is what has drawn the most press. I trust Kauffmann, Green and Tabacchi to be smart and open-minded in all village issues, even this one where they are determined that the lethal solution should not be the first. They understand that all ways of managing deer-human conflict are costly and complex, and that it is important to reach consensus, remembering that "it's all in the details."
Read complete text of letter
This letter, written by Cayuga Heights resident Sally Grubb in support of the three Open Government Party candidates, reveals some interesting details, including her assessment of where at least some, if not all, of the $50,000 budgeted for “deer remediation” last year came from:
When Mayor Gilmore introduced partisan politics to Cayuga Heights with his Community Party he also attempted to introduce closed governance. The deer committee was appointed without community input early in his tenure and meetings were not at first open to the public nor to all trustees... The committee has made no recommendations to the trustees, but the mayor is already on public record stating that Cayuga Heights will be culling deer. In fact money was taken from the Marcham Hall renovation budget line and moved to deer remediation. Why do I not find Marcham Hall renovation included in the Tompkins County Council of Governments Federal Stimulus Proposal? Why is Cayuga Heights not participating in this proposal? Open government would tell us this, but meetings behind closed doors and discussions including only some trustees does not.Read complete text of letter
CayugaDeer.org sends out informational mailing to community
For five months now, a group of area residents have been attending meetings about deer in Cayuga Heights, reviewing scientific research, evaluating the validity of claims being made by those who advocate a deer killing program, and investigating what's happening in other communities facing this issue. We have also sought to understand the true sources of deer-human conflicts and how they might most effectively be reduced. In all our study, one clear truth has emerged: Our community will be divided by any solution that doesn't respect both the needs of gardeners and the values of people opposed to a deer killing program.
CayugaDeer.org just mailed out information to residents of Cayuga Heights and surrounding neighborhoods, distilling what we feel are the most overlooked details of the deer debate. We are hopeful that having this information all in one place for quick study will enable people to easily become informed and provide the foundation for substantive dialogue on this important issue. Specifically, the mailing:
- Deconstructs myths about Cayuga Heights deer
- Explains why killing deer to reduce populations is both impractical and unsustainable
- Shows that bait and shoot programs are costly and controversial wherever they are carried out
- Provides startling information about a deer killing contractor currently being considered by the village
- Offers a vision for peaceful resolution, by addressing deer-human conflicts directly
Last week, the Ithaca Journal published an opinion piece that disparaged CayugaDeer.org and our work to raise community awareness about the deer issue. It was written by a political appointee of the Gilmore administration, an important detail that both the author of the piece and the Journal neglected to share.
"From the beginning, the deer committee offered exaggerated claims about deer posing an imminent threat to public safety, including various diseases, deer attacking humans, and vehicle accidents, for which Mayor Gilmore has stated numbers as high as triple the official police count. The deer committee's chairperson explicitly stated that this was not about the deer "eating the heirloom tomatoes" - that safety was the focus. Yet, the considerable risks associated with discharging rifles in our neighborhoods have been consistently minimized, with the mayor claiming the special weaponry they'd purchase would 'help assure 100 percent accuracy.'
"At a November deer committee meeting, Mayor Gilmore revealed the likely reason for their presenting deer as so threatening, and guns as so safe. 'We were told by village counsel early on, Chief (Tom) Boyce - were we not? - that actually, if we frame this around the safety issue we don't even need the public's vote.' The implication is that, if consulted, our community might not approve bringing in a team of snipers to protect plants
When elected officials and their appointees offer poorly reasoned justifications for controversial, risk-laden programs, when they employ divisive strategies and remove documents from public view, it is incumbent upon concerned citizens to work together to bring these truths to light. Hence, CayugaDeer.org.
This provides another opportunity for people to voice their opinion in the local paper. Letters to the Ithaca Journal can be sent to this address.
Op-ed: "Deer issue is about supremacy versus a peaceful co-existence"
Elizabeth Root’s thoughtful opinion piece, published in today's Ithaca Journal, compares Cayuga Heights’ proposed bait-and-shoot plan to Sarah Palin’s aerial gunning down of wolves in Alaska. Ms. Root’s is a voice of reason and compassion, reminding us that the deer’s original habitat was destroyed by overdevelopment, and that people and animals can live in harmony. Here is an excerpt:
"Compelling reasons argue for peaceful co-existence with deer. One is the sheer pleasure many derive from observing them. Watching the herds behind my building is extremely calming. My body relaxes and I feel happy during interludes with my wildlife. Many feel kindred with the creatures we invite into our environs. I get mildly annoyed when deer eat my impatiens, but I also plant ornamentals deer don't eat. I use seasonal fencing and organic deterrents. My friend who lives close to Cayuga Heights enjoys her lovely garden, along with a family of 12 deer who visit regularly. Watching these beautiful animals interact, preening one another and frolicking joyfully, reveals their true sentient feelings and diminishes our human arrogance."
Please consider adding your voice to the growing group of citizens opposed to baiting and shooting deer in Cayuga Heights. Letters to the Ithaca Journal can be sent to this address.
Freedom of Information request submitted, and other highlights from Monday's meeting
The room was packed at the Cayuga Heights Trustees meeting this past Monday, with 29 citizens in the audience and every seat taken. 14 people gave public comments about the deer issue, 12 of whom expressed opposition to the proposed bait-and-shoot deer killing program. Here are some highlights:
1. A report about Amherst, New York’s failed bait and shoot program was delivered by Gabrielle Vehar, an Ithaca resident who lived in Amherst when the controversy played out there several years ago. Interestingly, the Mayor and other members of the deer committee have been putting Amherst forth as a bait-and-shoot success story. Yet, according to Gabrielle:
"Five years after the bait and shoot program was initiated, with more than one thousand deer killed, years of meetings, vast sums of money spent, and a near brush with a tragic accident, the town government of Amherst still has a bitterly divided community, still has failed to develop a successful strategy for reducing deer-vehicle collisions, and still has failed to implement cost-effective non-lethal methods with a proven track record of success.”
Read Gabrielle’s full report, which is loaded with useful information and can be viewed as a cautionary tale for what might happen if a bait-and-shoot program moves forward here in our community.
2. Photos of the bloody aftermath of a bait and shoot operation which took place last week in Rochester Hills, Michigan. When Cayuga Heights resident Mary Tabacchi presented these images to the Trustees, she said:
"Brutally killing a group of deer while they are feeding suggests we have lost our way as peace loving, responsible guardians of our community.” She added, “These pictures do not show dead animals but they show where the deer were baited with corn. They show blood on a tree from the deer and they show a bloody trail of a deer trying to escape. Deer do not necessarily die instantly as can be shown by these pictures. Believe me - these pictures are mild compared to the carnage that will occur in our own community."
3. A statement enumerating many important issues of legal and economic liability associated with any proposed deer killing or deer population management program, presented by Cayuga Heights resident Karen Kaufmann. Karen brought up nine different areas of concern, including the question of amending local laws to permit the use of firearms for killing wildlife within the Village, the cost of an environmental impact study, which is likely to be required before killing deer, and the need for liability insurance to protect both land owners and the Village in the event of an accident or injury caused by a bait and shoot program. She also cautioned the Trustees against making the Village vulnerable to charges of "arbitrary and capricious conduct," by making their decision based on anything other than quantifiable facts and rational problem solving. She said:
"The Board's attention to these legal obligations and constraints is all the more critical in light of DRAC's disregard of the basic process recommendations of the wildlife professionals it has consulted... as well as the lessons of the Village's past experience with this issue -- that is, that any decision regarding deer management be the product of a process that seeks to build consensus among stakeholders, and that any management process begin, not (as in DRAC's case) with a proposed remedy, but with a fact-based assessment of the problems to be addressed and the specific goals to be achieved."
Read Karen’s complete statement, which provides more detail about the legal and economic liabilities facing Cayuga Heights, backed up with examples from other communities and citations of case law.
4. A Freedom of Information Act request presented by CayugaDeer.org spokesperson James LaVeck, who specifically asked for documents that pertained to:
“the formation of the deer committee, legal opinions that have been rendered by the village attorney, including those pertaining to Mayor Gilmore's comment at the November 20, 2008 DRAC meeting, ‘We were told by village counsel early on, Chief Boyce -- were we not? -- that actually if we frame this around the safety issue we don't even need the public's vote...’”
You can read CayugaDeer.org’s complete FOIL request here, and see more highlights from the meeting on Monday, including statements, reports and photos that were submitted to the Trustees.
New video questions credibility of recent DRAC statements
At the last meeting of the Deer Remediation Advisory Committee (DRAC), with a reporter from the Ithaca Journal present, the Chair of the committee expressed bewilderment at why DRAC has been portrayed as “pro-culling.” This was a jaw dropper for those of us who have been following this issue since last Fall.
To set the record straight, we have assembled a new short video, and launched a new page on this web site called “Is it Credible?” Please watch this video to understand how the process by which Cayuga Heights is attempting to address deer-human conflicts is severely flawed, and how the DRAC, by all appearances, was set up to arrive at a pre-determined conclusion.
Another letter in today's newspaper
Kudos to deer writer
Excerpt: Thank you to the writer of the unforgettable Dec. 19 letter "Better plan needed for deer," which condemns the proposed Cayuga Heights "bait and kill" deer policy... Such wisdom and empathy would certainly please the greatest people our planet have known, exemplified by Jesus and the Dalai Lama and Mahatma Gandhi, who said, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
Please add your voice to the growing group of citizens opposed to baiting and shooting deer in Cayuga Heights. Letters to the Ithaca Journal can be sent to this address.
Deer killing decision coming up fast
The decision-making process about the Cayuga Heights deer issue is being rushed to a hasty conclusion, and for questionable reasons. At last week's Deer Remediation Advisory Committee (DRAC) meeting, the following timeline was set:
Late January: DRAC expects to mail out its information packet to Cayuga Heights residents (it's still uncertain how they will compile their mailing list, as tax records do not provide addresses for every resident, only property owners).
Thursday, Feb. 19: The Village will hold its first public meeting to elicit community opinions about the deer issue (only one minute will be allowed to each speaker).
Tuesday, Feb. 24: The Village will hold its second and final public meeting about the deer issue (only one minute will be allowed to each speaker).
Thursday, March 5: DRAC will hold one last meeting in which they will officially announce their recommendation.
Monday, March 16: Cayuga Heights’ Board of Trustees will vote on DRAC's recommendation.
So, the community will receive its first and only planned mailing from DRAC in early February at the soonest, perhaps even later. And the decision is intended be made mid-March, less than two weeks after DRAC makes its formal recommendation to the Trustees.
Is this enough time to get the community up to speed on this complex issue, to hear their feedback, to encourage dialogue, to test the facts being presented, to assess public sentiment about the rationality,
risks and ethics of different options, to incorporate our community’s considerable collective wisdom, and to then decide on a plan that will be safe, effective, and morally acceptable to our community as a whole?
This new rushed timeline only reinforces the considerable evidence suggesting that DRAC was a body constituted for the sole purpose of rubber stamping a pre-determined bait-and-shoot agenda (click here to see the Deputy Mayor’s and DRAC’s commitment to this course of action, made public last August, then removed from the Village's web site in December).
After many past assurances by both Cayuga Heights Mayor Jim Gilmore and DRAC chairperson Kate Supron that consensus would be sought before any deer killing program was implemented, they recently announced that it would be illegal to hold a referendum on the deer issue, and that, according to the Village attorney, the law prohibits the village from spending public funds to conduct a survey of residents. From this, the mayor seems to have concluded that any approach to the Village systematically assessing public opinion would be illegal -- an idea several people have challenged.
Therefore, as the process has so far been carried out, the only feedback the Gilmore administration is going to receive on this important issue is through direct contact with their constituents and members of the larger Ithaca community who will also be affected by their proposed bait and shoot plan.
All of this becomes more serious because DRAC has thus far failed to even define the “deer problem” in a rational, fact-based manner. DRAC has also failed to address the fact that every justification that has been put forward to support the idea that killing deer is necessary -- and the only viable option for reducing deer-human conflict -- has been shown to be poorly founded or patently false. (To learn more, see Is It Rational?)
If the bait and shoot proposal is passed, it will bring sharpshooters and mass killing into our community for what even DRAC members admit will be at least a decade. Regardless of how one feels about the deer issue, we can all agree that hastily bringing to vote a decision that is this risky and controversial, with such long-lasting consequences, does little to serve our community.
Now is the time to make your voice heard. Since there will be no survey or consensus-seeking by the Village, the Trustees who will vote on this need to hear from people -- both within Cayuga Heights, and also in the surrounding areas of Ithaca -- who are opposed the proposed bait-and-shoot deer killing
Please send letters to the decision-makers listed in the left column of this page, and be sure to send a copy to Police Chief Tom Boyce, who is printing each letter he receives and collecting them in a binder so there will be a record of public sentiment. Please also send us a copy of your letter.
Phone messages for any of these public officials can be left at (607) 257-1238. Police Chief Boyce can be reached at (607) 257-1011. Snail mail can be sent to them at 836 Hanshaw Road, Ithaca, NY 14850.
Ithaca Journal: "Cayuga Heights close to decision on deer"
For the first time, thanks to the collective efforts of each person who has taken the time to attend meetings and speak up, a local news story offers the point of view not just of one person who opposes Cayuga Heights' proposed bait and shoot plan, but of several (read the article by Krisy Gashler).
This is a major accomplishment, as anyone reading the article will see that opposition to the deer killing program is diverse, thoughtful, and growing, and that a majority of people now attending the Deer Remediation Advisory Committee (DRAC) meetings are there to express opposition. The extent of the shift is demonstrated by the mayor now seemingly having no other options but to refer to the "quiet majority out there who want us to do something about this. They just aren't coming to the meetings."
The article reports that Chief Boyce is no longer likely to carry out a bait and shoot program, “so as not to harm relations between police and villagers opposed to the program." Again, credit goes to each person who made their voice heard, as well as to Chief Boyce for his willingness to listen.
However, now that the Chief is backing away from having his department perform the shooting, DRAC is pursuing the possibility of bringing in animal killing contractors from out-of-town. Such contractors have proven to be extremely controversial wherever they are employed, and their actions have resulted in more than one lawsuit, not to mention ongoing acrimony in the communities that have brought them in.
Lastly, the article affirms that the mayor is intent on rushing a trustee vote by mid-March. At the last meeting, the Chair of DRAC confirmed that once a bait and shoot program has begun, it is expected to continue for at least a decade. The Mayor also maintains that the Village will not send out a survey to measure public opinion before the trustees decide on the matter, and that if citizens are unhappy with their decision, they can vote them out of office.
All this underscores the pressing need to get more people involved, and to continue expressing our opposition at DRAC meetings and at meetings of the Village trustees, as well as through letters to the local papers. Letters to the Ithaca Journal can be sent to this address.
The next opportunity to be heard will be at this month’s Village Trustee meeting, which has been moved from January 19th to next Monday, January 26th, at 7 PM at the Village Hall, 836 Hanshaw Road (across from Community Corners, same building as Police station - driving directions here).
We hope you’ll join us.
Three letters published in the Ithaca Journal, and citizens speak out at public meetings
In the last three days, three letters have been printed in the Ithaca Journal expressing opposition to Cayuga Heights' proposed bait-and-shoot deer killing plan:
Cayuga Heights off mark (December 18)
Excerpt: We believe it is morally reprehensible and bespeaks a deficit of vision and leadership, for the village to commit to mass slaughter without full exploration and fair consideration of non-lethal alternatives, especially in this well-resourced and knowledge-rich community.
Better plan needed for deer (December 19)
Excerpt: There are practical, proven, non-violent ways to address each of the issues raised by the people who are experiencing conflict with the deer — ways that don't ask anyone to go out and methodically take life after innocent life.
Deer plan unsafe (December 20)
Excerpt: During the first five public meetings of the Cayuga Heights deer committee, proponents of a bait-and-shoot program spent more time discussing the risks associated with contact with deer feces (which the Health Department doesn't even recognize as a public health issue) than they did disclosing the very real dangers posed by discharging firearms year after year in our densely populated community.
These letters, along with this week’s article in the Ithaca Times, have sent a clear message to the wider community that the proposed bait-and-shoot program is controversial, and that those who oppose it do so on well supported factual and ethical grounds.
Ten citizens expressed opposition to the bait-and-shoot plan at last Monday's meeting of the Cayuga Heights village trustees, and nine people at Thursday's DRAC (deer committee) meeting also raised doubts and concerns about the dangers and questionable ethics of the proposed deer killing program.
If the deer killing proposal gets passed, guns, violence, and the mass slaughter of human-habituated animals will become an annual ritual in our community for the foreseeable future, as has been the case for other communities that went down this path. There has been talk of beginning the killing as soon as early Spring, so now is the time when community involvement really counts.
You can send your letters to the Ithaca Journal by email at this address. And you can send your letters to the Ithaca Times at this address. The next Village Trustees meeting is on Monday, January 19th.
Make your voice be heard!
Ithaca Times gives deer issue balanced coverage
Today an article was published in the Ithaca Times that makes it abundantly clear there are serious questions about the quality of information being put forth by officials in Cayuga Heights to justify their proposed bait-and-shoot deer killing plan:
Notably, the article points out that, contrary to the Deer Remediation Advisory Committee’s representations, the DEC does not actually recommend a specific level of deer population for our community. It also points out that the ammunition being proposed by Chief Boyce does not eliminate many serious risks that accompany discharging weapons in a densely populated community. Here is an excerpt:
Another issue raised by LaVeck is the fact that Gilmore and DRAC limit dialogue to within Cayuga Heights.
"The proponents of the bait and shoot program insist that this is a matter of concern only to the people who live in the boundaries of Cayuga Heights," he said. "Here is this municipality embedded in other municipalities making this decision in isolation.
"This is a situation where elected officials are imposing a risk on people who didn't elect them," LaVeck added. "The point we want to make is that both bullets and deer don't respect lines drawn on a map. The weapons that will be used will have a range far beyond village limits, and deer will baited in from neighboring areas as well."
He continued by saying that the village is a very densely settled area.
"There is no location in Cayuga Heights that is not very close to residences, and the discharge of firearms brings with it, to our judgment, an unacceptable degree of risk," LaVeck said. "We have great respect for Chief Boyce and his concern for public safety, but we disagree with the idea that deer killing with silenced rifles at undisclosed locations is safe. It's not that police are reckless, it's just that firearms are inherently dangerous. Any weapon that can kill a deer poses the risk of grievous harm to a human."
There are safer, more ethical, and more rational ways to reduce deer-human conflict than the bait-and-shoot program being proposed. You can learn about some of these alternatives here.
Cayuga Heights bait-and-shoot plan discussed in local media
Two items of interest today:
First, CayugaDeer.org spokesperson James LaVeck was on WHCU's Morning Newswatch with Dave Vieser. James welcomed the opportunity to have more public discourse about the proposed bait and shoot plan in Cayuga Heights. He raised some questions about the rationale and process being used to advance this plan, and pointed out that the locations where the shooting will take place have not been publicly disclosed.
...the shooting campaign is politically unfeasible. This became clear to us when the mayor refused to disclose which locations would be used for shooting. He said as a safety matter he wouldn't discuss it and would never discuss it.
WHCU's host, Dave Vieser, asked if residents wouldn't need to know where the shooting would be done, so they could stay away? And the mayor said no.
It is hopeful to see the discussion moving into the wider community. Let's keep the momentum going and encourage more people to get informed and involved.
This web site is published by CayugaDeer.org - Ithacans for Safe, Ethical, and Rational Approaches to Reducing Deer-Human Conflict. We are a group of concerned citizens from Ithaca neighborhoods, including Cayuga Heights. If you would like to join our educational outreach effort and be informed of opportunities where your input can make a difference, contact us.