Thom Smith: 'Altresco' deer herd: captive or not?


Q: Will you please settle a disagreement we are having at work about the infamous Altresco deer herd. One camp maintains the deer are captives, and would need the gate open to come and go. The other camp says the chain link fence is no barrier for the deer at all, and they can come and go at will. Any thoughts?

MORGAN, Hinsdale

A: As I did not know about the " infamous Altresco deer," I began an investigation, only to learn that, while the small herd will probably retain the name "Altresco deer," they are not on the postage stamp-size Altresco (Alternative Resource Company) property but on adjacent General Electric land.

Tony Gola, Mass Wildlife Western District biologist, said: "We've been receiving pleas to rescue these deer for more than a decade. The fact that they have been in there so many years indicates all their survival needs are being met or they have the means to come and go from the area. From an animal welfare issue, I'm convinced no intervention is needed."

Gene Chague, Berkshire Eagle hunting and fishing columnist, says "I have been watching those deer for years and think they can come and go at will. I think the herd is up to six or perhaps more."

Gene's nephew Joseph Chague, Pittsfield's animal control officer, said "That herd has been there five or six or more years and can come and go whenever it wants."

He continues, "Also, people [apparently] drop food over the fence now and then to feed them. Occasionally, they open the fence, stop traffic and shoo them out, but they come right back. I guess they feel safe there."

Altresco Plant Manager Richard Taikowski, Jr. said: "I have been at Altresco for 21 years [and] have been seeing deer on the adjacent property for about 15 years. At present there are 11 deer. Opening the gate to release deer is not true. They can come and go on their own. A couple years ago, there was a stray dog inside the gate, and it must have been chasing a doe with two fawns. She had in and out and brought the fawns outside the gate.

"But that is actually all GE property over there. We just abut their property. People try to sneak in to get good pictures of them and the GE guards have cameras trained on the area and escort them off. GE doesn't mind the deer there; they are protected and there are apple orchards over by where the plastics house use to be, and plenty of feed on top of the hill.

"There is no room inside Altresco for deer. In the GE property, there is at least 20 acres with woods and fields and everything [the deer need]. The guards at the new west entrance at General Dynamics see them regularly."

Altresco co-founder Bill Williams answered my E-mail with "Thom, you brought a smile. Are the deer doing well? I know that the manager of the plant has been there since day one, and there has always been an underlying agenda of improving the quality of life for all of the residents of the area."

Neighboring deer are, I assume, included in Bill's "All."

FOOTNOTE (from Altresco website): This facility went online in 1990 and displaced the source of 800 tons per year of sulfur emissions and, by precedent, over 70,000 tons per year of NOx emissions in New England.

Questions and comments for Thom Smith


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