Long, tiring drive home last night. Six and a half hours through the snow and sleet and freezing rain and fog. But I made it and at least I didn’t hit a deer.
Read that again.
I didn’t hit a deer.
Or either of the other two standing with him in the middle of the road as I came around a bend.
There are too darn many of them.
The deer population is also taking off in the Bronx, where the animals wander in from Westchester County’s woods. Park officials will carry out an aerial survey there this winter, focusing on Pelham Bay Park and Van Cortlandt Park, which both have large expanses of woods.
Once they are counted, the city will have to figure out what to do about them, since the animals can destroy the understory in woodlands, present a hazard on roads and serve as hosts for the ticks that carry Lyme disease.
“We recognize that deer are a sensitive issue,” said Jennifer Greenfeld, the parks department’s deputy chief of forestry, horticulture and natural resources. “It’s a sweet, calm mammal when you see it in the woods, and it’s hard for people to reconcile the fact that something that appears lovely has a negative side.”
The influx of deer is of particular concern to parks officials who in recent years have worked to remove invasive species in woodlands and replace them with native trees and shrubs, as they are doing in Buck’s Hollow.
The Greenbelt, a 2,800-acre network of contiguous and mostly natural parks, offers ideal habitat for deer. There is plenty of fresh water in the form of ponds, as well as the 15-acre Great Swamp. There is cover in the form of dense trees and shrubs to make them feel safe. And there is food.
“Deer like to eat anything,” said Katerli Bounds, a parks official who was pointing to a wineberry bush in Buck’s Hollow. “See all these flat, clipped tops? That’s deer.”
Deer harm the forest in two ways. They can eventually destroy the understory by nibbling on saplings and shrubs (a process known as “browse”), and they also rub their antlers against the bark of developing trees, chipping away at the protective layer.
Traffic accidents are also on the rise.
Read all of Lisa W. Foderaro’s story, Growing Herds of Deer Aren’t Welcome at New York Parks, at the New York Times.