DEP Announces Deer Herd Reduction Completed at Bluff Point

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The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced the completion of deer management activities at Bluff Point Coastal Reserve (BPCR) in Groton. Biologists from the DEP’s Wildlife Division culled 9 deer as part of its ongoing efforts to restore the ecological balance at the Reserve. The activities occurred on 3 nights during February 2005. All deer, after being examined by DEP biologists to assess overall herd health, were donated to "Hunters for the Hungry" for distribution to local food charities.

"Over the last ten years, the Department has successfully reduced the deer population at Bluff Point to an ecologically sustainable level," said Ed Parker, Chief of DEP’s Bureau of Natural Resources. "However, periodic thinning of the herd is necessary to maintain the deer population at levels that can be supported by the habitat at Bluff Point and to maintain a healthy, balanced ecosystem."

Based on population surveys conducted at Bluff Point in November 2004, the deer population was estimated at 34 deer. Reducing the deer population by 9 was necessary to maintain the desired population size of 25 deer at Bluff Point, thereby balancing the deer population with the available habitat. Without that balance, over browsing by deer significantly impacts the area’s plant and animal diversity.

Utilizing wildlife management techniques authorized by the Connecticut General Assembly in 2003 specifically for such purposes, such as attractants and spotlights, the cull was carried out using fewer DEP resources and without infringing upon the public’s daytime use of the park. DEP Law Enforcement officers were present at the Park and Reserve to enforce the regulation that the park is closed to the public at sunset.

"The availability of additional wildlife management techniques allowed for more efficient use of the agency’s resources," said DEP’s Parker. "In addition, conducting the activities at night allowed us to keep the park open during the day so that the public can take advantage of the many, outstanding wintertime recreational activities possible at Bluff Point."

Biological data collected from deer removed from Bluff Point in February 2005 continued to show overall improvements in deer herd health since management measures were initiated in 1996. As the population was reduced from almost 300 deer to about 25 deer since reduction activities began in 1996, deer fat indices, body weight, and reproductive rates have all improved reaching levels consistent with deer taken statewide. In addition, habitat conditions at the Reserve have improved dramatically.

"Without periodic deer herd reductions, the deer population at Bluff Point would again grow to levels detrimental to the health of the herd and the entire ecosystem," said DEP’s Parker.

The deer taken were donated to local food charities. Approximately 375 pounds of venison were donated this year. Since deer management was initiated at Bluff Point in 1996, about 9,675 pounds of venison have been provided to charities.