Deer incidents in Radnor highest in Delaware County

Though no plan is in place to take care of Radnor Township´s growing deer problem, officials said they want to do more than put up traffic signs.
Though no plan is in place to take care of Radnor Township's growing deer problem, officials said they want to do more than put up traffic signs.

Six cases of Lyme disease later, Michael Drennan said he wouldn’t ever be a “Bambi lover.”

Drennan lives in Radnor Township, where the police department, township manager and Board of Commissioners face a multiplying problem: deer.

At a public safety committee meeting Tuesday night, Radnor police and township officials met with residents to discuss the area’s burgeoning deer population. In 2011, there were 144 deer-related incidents reported in the township, which is the highest in Delaware County, and 103 involved vehicle accidents.

“The population is out of control,” Drennan said. “It is not hard to hunt them legally and safely … It is very manageable if we just address the resources we have.”

Already in 2012, Radnor Police Chief William Colarulo said the township is on its way to exceeding last year’s number of incidents with 27 incidents in January and February.

Until contracting the U.S. Department of Agriculture to do a study on the township’s deer density in January, the only thing Radnor did to deal with the overpopulation was identify heavily deer-trafficked areas and put up deer crossing traffic signs.

Though there were several methods to removing deer discussed, the most practical deer management tool would be some form of hunting program, Animal Control Officer William Gallagher said. Other than car accidents and an increase in Lyme disease in humans, deer overpopulation can also damage shrubbery or forested areas.

“If and when someone gets hurt, we’re going to be responsible if we don’t do something, and that is the impetus behind this,” Vice President of the Board of Commissioners Elaine Schaefer said, adding that deer issues are the No. 2 most common complaints in her ward.

Schaefer’s residents’ first complaint, though, is speeding, which is why Philadelphia Advocates for the Deer’s Lee Hall said most are looking to the wrong solutions.

“If speeding seems to be a problem, then why don’t we deal with it?” said Hall, who is also the legal advocate for Friends of Animals. “If we kill deer, then the deer will just come back, and we’ll have to do this kind of violent thing cyclically because we haven’t dealt with the situation using natural cycles.”

The deer density survey administered by USDA wildlife biologist Gino Dangelo at the request of the township determined there are approximately 101 deer per square mile in Radnor. Prior to beginning its culling program in 2008, the deer density in Lower Merion Township was 58 deer per square mile.

“We’re not saying culling is the answer, but we do know something needs to be done,” Colarulo said.

Though the Board of Commissioners will need to decide on a way to deal with the deer population, Township Manager Bob Zienkowski asked Dangelo to proceed with creating a USDA management plan for the township. He also asked Hall to draft a report on how Philadelphia Advocates for the Deer might deal with the overpopulation issue.

Though there was disagreement over how to deal with the overpopulation of deer in the room, everyone agreed inaction isn’t an option.

“There’s roughly 50 people here,” Colarulo said. “Is there anyone in this room that doesn’t think we don’t need to do something?”

Not one hand rose.