Bronx Bambi head count as Parks set to monitor deer population

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Oh, deer —but how many deer are here?

City Islanders who have insisted for years that Pelham Bay Park’s roads need deer warning signs may soon be getting the evidence to back up their claims.

The city Department of Parks and Recreation is taking the first step in its plan to count the borough’s deer population this month, sending small planes equipped with heat-seeking cameras over Pelham Bay Park, along with Van Cortlandt Park, Riverdale Park and Bronx Park.

Debate needs ‘teeth’

The planes cruise 1,000 feet above the park and use infrared radar to hone in on the deer living within. Combined with the results of a ground survey, the Parks Department will soon have a baseline count of just how many does and stags call the Bronx home.

The project costs Parks $19,000, but could be priceless for City Islanders looking to add teeth to their argument that the stag situation is dire enough for Pelham Bay Park to have signs alerting drivers to the deer danger.

“There have been deer in that park for years,” said Barbara Dolensek of the City Island Civic Association, which voted at its January meeting to pen a letter to the city Department of Transportation asking them for the warning signs.

Danger to cars?

Dolensek said she first spotted a buck standing in the road between Orchard Beach and Bartow Circle eight years ago. Just a couple months ago, she had to slow down her car to avoid a young doe standing at the entrance of Orchard Beach.

“I know that you need to proceed with caution,” she said. “We need the signs in there telling people to watch out for these deer.”

Stags seen in West Bx

Deer have also been sighted in the west Bronx, said Christina Taylor, executive director of Friends of Van Cortland Park.

“I don’t see them a huge amount, but we do see them from time to time,” Taylor said.

She said the deer likely follow the parkways down from Westchester County before nestling in her local park. Parks staff members walking through the trees early in the morning, she added, have noticed the stags roaming about.

Dolensek guessed that about a dozen deer may live in Pelham Bay Park, while Taylor said she had “no idea” how many deer had taken up residence in Van Cortland Park.

The Parks survey should provide clarity on the issue. The agency says it will use its baseline deer count to track deer population changes over time, and then use it as a resource to manage deer population.

Reach Reporter Ben Kochman at (718) 742–3394. E-mail him at bkochman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @benkochman.
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