Tag Archives: ithaca

bucks snapped by an infrared-triggered camera. Monitoring by Cornell helps to determine the population on and around campus. Photo courtesy of Paul Curtis.

People and deer: A complicated relationship

Credit: Greg Thompson/USFWS

Do you see deer in your neighborhood or backyard? Credit: Greg Thompson/USFWS

Today you're hearing from Emily Pomeranz, a doctoral student at Cornell University in the Department of Natural Resources. She studies citizen participation in deer management. Want to learn more? She can be contacted at efp33@cornell.edu. Photo courtesy of Emily.

Today you’re hearing from Emily Pomeranz, a doctoral student at Cornell University in the Department of Natural Resources. She studies citizen participation in deer management. Want to learn more? She can be contacted at efp33@cornell.edu. Photo courtesy of Emily.

In the Northeast, people have a complicated relationship with deer.

Deer are beautiful animals that many (myself included) love to view and love to photograph; deer are also a game species that many hunters value, too. But, in many parts of the Northeast (like here in Ithaca, New York), there are a lot of deer.

And with too many deer comes conflict. No one wants to see his or her garden chomped. No one wants to hit a deer on the highway (or have a deer hit you while you’re stopped at a stop sign—I speak from experience!). Lyme disease is a real concern, too.

So, what do we (as individuals, communities, or management agencies) do? How do we balance the things we value about deer with the real concerns that come with their overabundance?

In New York State, the Department of Environmental Conservation has partnered with Cornell Cooperative Extension in a longstanding effort to involve citizens in task forces to help make better decisions about deer; other states in the region (like Pennsylvania and Maine) have modeled their own citizen involvement processes after New York’s citizen task forces.

bucks snapped by an infrared-triggered camera. Monitoring by Cornell helps to determine the population on and around campus.  Photo courtesy of Paul Curtis.

Three bucks snapped by an infrared-triggered camera. Monitoring by Cornell helps to determine the population on and around campus. Photo courtesy of Paul Curtis.

Some communities with passionate conflict over deer have engaged in community-based deer management. For example, Cayuga Heights, New York—Ithaca’s neighbor—has convened deer remediation advisory committees (consisting of local residents and municipal officials) to provide guidance on what the town should do to manage their deer.

A doe out for a walk. She is wearing a radio-transmitter so Cornell researchers can see where she goes and note her home range. Photo courtesy of Paul Curtis.

A doe out for a walk. She is wearing a radio-transmitter so Cornell researchers can see where she goes and note her home range. Photo courtesy of Paul Curtis.

And over at Cornell University, in the Human Dimensions Research Unit (where I’m a graduate student), researchers study citizen participation in deer management (along with other social aspects of natural resources management and policy) in order to help better manage human-wildlife conflict and its impact on wildlife conservation.

My own feelings towards deer are also complex. Last week on a short drive to the Ithaca Airport at 4:30 in the morning, I slowed down for seven different deer peering at me from the side of the road as I passed by. With each pair of eyes I noticed reflecting the light from my headlights, I had that familiar fear of one of those critters racing out in front of my car—hurting either the deer or my car (or myself).

Do you see deer in your neighborhood or backyard? Photo courtesy of Paul Curtis.

Photo courtesy of Paul Curtis.

But I also never tire of the chance to observe them.

Not only are they lovely to watch, but they are also held in trust by the State of New York for citizens like myself (and future citizens, too), so I feel a certain connection and responsibility towards them.

Yes, deer and people have a complicated relationship. And many of us disagree over how best to manage that relationship.

But I believe that citizen involvement in deer management decisions—whether in providing feedback to local wildlife managers, engaging in processes like the citizen task forces, or creating a community-based deer program, are invaluable in managing our relationship with deer.

Hopefully, together we can find ways to coexist with deer into the future. And in New York State, we are trying.

More photos from the Ithaca Children's Garden. Credit: David Stilwell/USFWS

Who says playing in the mud is just for kids?

International Mud Day at the Ithaca Children's Garden! Credit: Rusty Keeler

International Mud Day at the Ithaca Children’s Garden! Credit: Rusty Keeler, Ithaca Children’s Garden

I'm Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You'll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York. USFWS photo with Bethany holding a bog turtle

I’m Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You’ll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York.

“Don’t you come home dirty,” my mom said with a stern look as my adolescent self bounced off with my neighborhood friends.

Hours later, I returned scuffed up and in need of a shower.

We all have memories like that, right? Well… I’m here to tell you to play in the mud!

Getting messy in the mud encourages people to get outdoors, play in nature and create happy memories with nature.

Not convinced that the mess is worth it? I wasn’t either, until I spent International Mud Day June 30 at the Ithaca Children’s Garden. More than 600 children, teenagers and adults had come together to climb, slide and splash in 48 cubic yards of dirt hosed down by the Ithaca Fire Department to create mud mountains and a giant mud pool. While the majority of mud seekers were children, teenagers and adults were quick to jump in the action as well.

The event featured mud-themed food, with selections like “mud” cheesecake, and mud (chocolate) or maple sno-cones. Children concocted their own muddy recipes in the fully stocked mud kitchen, created cob sculptures, or listened to stories from storyteller Regi Carpenter. Others could be found at the photo booth, showcasing their messy progress in “before” and “after” pictures

While we were getting dirty in New York, I learned that the idea for Mud Day emerged several years ago on the other side of the globe. Attendees at the 2009 World Forum for Early Childhood Care and Education learned that a group of children in a Nepal orphanage could not play in the mud because they did not have an extra set of clothing — and no money to buy soap to wash the single outfit.

After the forum, the story was presented to school children in Australia who wanted to help the children in Nepal by sending them money to buy clothing and food. The children in Australia were so inspired by the story that they decided to have their own Mud Day as a way of celebrating with the children in Nepal.

In both countries, children were hesitant about jumping in the mud, but after an event organizer jumped in for assurance, and curiosity built up, children were quick to jump, splash and play in the mud as intended. Mud Day has since become an international event, and is celebrated locally as a way of encouraging people to play in nature.

Mud play and outdoor play in general are actually very important to the development of a child, both mentally and physically. Not only do children create happy memories with nature, but exposure to microbes in the soil can help children build immune strength.

Mud Day event planners in Ithaca were hoping to expose these mind and body benefits to children and adults, and help guests overcome the “need to be clean” mentality.

Families dressed in all white came back to the photo booth completely brown; but even more exciting for me was seeing those families play TOGETHER. Children are usually discouraged from getting dirty, so to see a parent not only allow their child to get muddy, but also jump in the mud with them was an amazing sight.

Mud Day participation and acceptance by parents dramatically improved from last year, as parents this year encouraged their children to get dirty. Credit: David Stilwell/USFWS

Mud Day participation and acceptance by parents dramatically improved from last year, as parents this year encouraged their children to get dirty. Credit: David Stilwell/USFWS

As I mentioned, I admit I was slightly hesitant to jump in and completely submerge myself in the mud pit. That was, until I looked over to see my boss completely covered in mud!

The cool mud felt great against the hot sun. I felt comfortable and relaxed in the mud — so much so that I signed up for a 5K mud run a few weeks later (and funny enough, the 5k participants were mostly adults who just wanted to get a little dirty).

A shot of the mud hill at Ithaca Children's Garden. Credit: Rusty Keeler, Ithaca Children’s Garden

A shot of the mud hill at Ithaca Children’s Garden. Credit: Rusty Keeler, Ithaca Children’s Garden

The next time you have the opportunity to get muddy, I highly encourage you to do so. Jump in mud puddles, run a muddy race, or attend Mud Day next year! Whatever you decide to do, I guarantee you will feel great afterward.

Let go of the mud aversion, and embrace the mucky mess waiting for you.