If you've seen mechanical birds flying about the Village of Mamaroneck, you are not imaging things.
Government officials there, concerned about the overpopulation of deer in their village, have turned to drones instead of hunters to figure out how to control the increasing deer population.
Taffy Williams of Yonkers, a "remote pilot" licensed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said she's wrapping up a month-long deer count using drones.
"I am counting Mamaroneck right now. It is an ongoing process. There are many challenges to doing a drone project over this area, but I have learned a great deal," Williams said.
"It is sometimes 'slow-going' because you must have perfect conditions -- no or little wind, absolutely no precipitation, and the autumn leaves dropped late this year," Williams said.
"We are in the dead of winter, and the cold zaps batteries quickly. Also, equipment must be in top condition. (I recently blew one motor and ended up replacing the entire drone!) You never know what you will have to do!"
Williams of the non-profit group NY4Whales/NY4Wildlife added, "The drone count for wildlife is a wonderful gauge for accuracy in numbers, far superior to other methods, especially the pellet count method. This project also aims to dispel much of the misinformation about deer, especially relating to lyme disease."
Williams said she must follow Federal Aviation Administration regulations including limiting the flight to 400 feet.
"I am using a thermal and visible light camera on the drone. We use a video, then count any deer that show up. Some flights show nothing. Residents were advised and are aware of this activity, that’s also an FAA requirement. We avoid houses, except large yards. Flights have to be done safely and you can’t fly over people," Williams said.
"I think people are sick and tired of the misinformation that is reported to support the mass slaughter of wildlife. In this case, it’s the hype about Lyme disease which is NOT carried by deer, as well as grossly inflated estimates of deer populations."
Williams said one wildlife biologist's "pellet count" method estimated there were 74 deer per quarter square mile which "translates to 1,800 deer in Mamaroneck! This was an absurd figure. . . The estimate only supports the belief that deer populations are inflated to encourage hunting activity."
"Hopefully this drone-count project will help debunk the misinformation," Williams added. "The issue is complex, for sure. We are looking for the best data we can get."