By Kevin Biggiani
Bambi? We would all love to see Bambi again…but not on our car windshield or caught in our fence. What has long been someone else’s problem has now become ours. These rather timid, cute, yet majestic animals, deer, are steadily migrating from Eastern Long Island to Nassau County.
First they were sighted in more wooded North Shore communities such as Oyster Bay Cove, Cold Spring Harbor, Laurel Hollow and Locust Valley, but now they are being spotted more western and southern inland in Nassau County towns such as Syosset, Muttontown, Westbury, Bethpage, Levittown and Massapequa.
There was even a sighting on Shelter Rock Road in Manhasset, which is an extremely busy thoroughfare. A blogger there said, “A buck came flying across the road and barely missed getting hit by a car.”
Why are they here? The Department of Environmental Conservation (the DEC) blames the deer migration to Nassau County on the building of many residential developments in Eastern Suffolk County in recent years. Eastern Suffolk County has long been relatively undeveloped. Now with the increased building of homes there, deer are seeking new territories in search of greener pastures and food. The migration is an easy one for the deer. There are no large rivers to cross on Long Island, to get in their way. Nassau County prohibits the hunting of deer because of the denseness of residential housing. To compound the issue, the deer have no natural predators here to keep the deer population in check.
As a result, the number of deer here is increasing quite rapidly. Most of Nassau County is developed and heavily populated with humans. The clash between humans and deer is inevitable. Nassau County is faced with the dilemma of how to control the deer population, which Suffolk County has long been struggling to mitigate with no success.
Accidents between cars and deer are now frequently being reported here in Nassau County. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are about 1 million car accidents with deer each year in the United States that kill 200 Americans, cause more than 10,000 personal injuries, and result in $1 billion in vehicle damage. Last year, for the first time, a sign was posted on Northern Boulevard in Oyster Bay Cove warning motorists to be watchful of deer. Recently a sign has been installed on Route 106 in Muttontown warning motorists of deer. Earlier this month in Muttontown, two deer were found caught in a fence. Fortunately, the police were able to free the deer.
Deer are also dangerous to humans, and they host deadly ticks that carry Lyme disease. Deer ticks carry bacteria, which in humans causes a rash, flu-like symptoms, joint pain and weakness. According to Healthline Media, “Ticks that carry Lyme disease, like the deer tick, have widened their territory beyond the northeast and into states once thought of as immune.” One has to wonder if this may be due to the migration of deer.
Another problem with the arrival of deer is their appetites. Residents who live in high deer populations have been shocked and angered to find that deer have devoured their expensive ornamental shrubs and flowers. Deer also have become less afraid of humans as some people are feeding them. Residents have reported deer coming so close to them that they could eat out of their hands.
Will the increase of deer draw dangerous predators to Long Island? Coyotes are a natural predator of deer. According to Newsday, Long Island is now the only major land mass in the continental United States that coyotes have not colonized. But the process is underway. Coyote populations in Westchester County and the Bronx are growing, and the increased deer populations here may be too good for coyotes to ignore. It has been confirmed that two pairs of coyotes have found Long Island homes. Coyotes pose a safety risk to residents, as they are known to attack pet dogs and cats. Often, pet attacks turn into human attacks as an owner tries to shield or protect their pet from the coyote. At least one child was bitten by a coyote in 2018 in Westchester County.
Though extremely beautiful to see, deer pose a major problem in areas shared with people. It is crucial that our local government take action to implement compassionate measures to lessen our clash with the deer. Without a kindhearted solution soon, predators will only make the deer problem worse. I think Bambi would agree.
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