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Deer population control initiative provides food for the hungry

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A recent initiative to reduce the deer population in Tompkins County could help provide roughly 5,600 servings of venison to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier.

Over the last year-and-a-half, a recorded over-population of roughly 100 deer in the village of Trumansburg has led to a variety of economic and environmental concerns mainly related to car accidents and Lyme disease.

In order to reduce the deer population, the Trumansburg Board of Trustees developed the Trumansburg Deer Management Program. This weekend was the fifth active week of the program. The program, operates on a weekly basis with a handful of participants and is limited to eight properties in the area, where participants are allowed to hunt deer in order to control the population.

According to Trumansburg mayor and professor at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Marty Petrovic, “This is a highly controlled program–there are only 10 participants. It’s a little different than hunting, it’s a nuisance control program, not regular hunting.”

The program will continue until the village believes it has reached an appropriate deer population. So far, the village has killed 45 deer, many of which have been donated to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, a food distributor.

According to Jonathan Fuller, a Community & Public Relations Manager at the Food Bank of Southern Tier, “It’s a way for hunters to participate in the sport of hunting while putting it to good use.”

According to Fuller, the food bank received around 6,200 pounds of venison last year. Each deer provides about 160 servings of meat. According to Fuller, the deer are inspected by a processor before being sent to the food bank to ensure that they are disease free.

“Before it can go to the food bank, it has to go through an intermediary facility,” Fuller said.

According to Fuller, the program provides lower-income residents with an nutritionally-dense protein option. He explained that venison is superior to most common red meats because it has less fat and cholesterol.

Trumansburg and the surrounding area is home to number of vegetarian and vegan residents. Not all residents approve the program. However according to Fuller, the food bank often doesn’t get involved in public policy and doesn’t receive any backlash from the community.

Cathy Michael, creator of a vegan and vegetarian webpage at Ithaca College, is also a vegetarian and is opposed to hunting but does believe the program serves a valid purpose.

“I am interested in animal rights and animal welfare and think all life should be treated with respect…I even try not to drive at night for fear of hitting deer and worry about those that speed at night around the City and lake areas,” Michael said.

Michael also mentioned that there is a need for population control. “Yes, I do recognize the need for population control but in a humane manner,” Michael said.

“We’ve only had two residents express concern about the program and the killing of the animals because there are obviously a number options you could try in order to deal with deer population. It’s not a 100 percent, but with any decision there’s never a 100 percent support behind it,” Petrovic said.

Stephen Phillips, a GreenStar employee, has been a vegetarian for more than 20 years. Although he respects animal life, he also sees the utility in the program. He does however believe that there could other natural means to reduce the population.

“We could introduce local predators to balance the population,” Phillips said.

Although Phillips believes that other measures could be considered, he explained that he approves of the program because the deer are being used to support a good cause.

“I’m not opposed to people who want to eat what they want,” Phillips said.

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