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Harrison Library Holds Eco-Awareness Discussion

HARRISON, N.Y. – Beth Rhines of the Teatown Lake Reservation in Ossining spoke at the Harrison Public Library on Wednesday night about how people can become more in tune with nature and live mutually with wildlife.

Displaying wildlife items such as bird feathers, deer fur and a turtle shell, Rhines spoke about how Westchester County - even with a high human population - also has active wildlife. From various species of birds to raccoons to coyotes, Westchester is home to its share of critters. “There even used to be wolves found here during the time of the Native Americans,” Rhines said.

“Nature helps connect you with yourself. Still, there are lots of parts of our modern society that don’t make it easy for us to have that connection. Even at the nature preserve, I’m in my office most of the day,” she noted, adding that, with all the distractions around us in daily life, it can be a challenge to find time to spend in nature.

Discussing the need for balance in the wildlife population, Rhines said that when it comes to the growing deer population in Westchester County, they have no natural predators. Although there are some coyotes around, there are not enough to control the deer population, she said.

There is also an influx of geese, Rhines added, which have the potential to destroy some areas due to their droppings and their big appetite for grass.

“The problem is that we humans make great habitats for them around here,” Rhines said of the geese. “They lay eggs in wetlands and will go into fields to eat grass and other plants. Deer will do the same thing, and eat gardens or the edges of forests, where there's shrubby grass.”

There are some ways to help combat the deer problem, she said, such as spraying gardens with substances that don't taste good to deer. Besides hunting, people can also discourage deer from living nearby by reducing the amount of food available to the deer population.

“There are also big management strategies, like sterilizing female deer,” Rhines said. “It’s like giving them a shot. It’s not an easy answer, but it is the humane thing to do.”

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