I stopped by the Inwood Hill Nature Center on Saturday and had a long chat with a knowledgeable NYC Park Ranger, Gerald "Jerry" Stiegler. I wanted to know if the urban folklore about deer in northern Manhattan is true. The answer is, sort of.
According to Ranger Jerry, he and other staff of the Center have spotted deer from time to time. There was a doe on the fields to the west of the Center in 2010. And a healthy buck was fatally injured by a car on the Henry Hudson Parkway last year. Apparently deer can swim rather well and make the trip from Palisades Park across the Hudson River or from Riverdale across the Harlem River.
The biggest deterents to mammals in Inwood Hill Park are, however, dogs rather than cars. The smell of dogs and their urine repels deer, turkeys, racoons and many other mammals that might normally inhabit large tracts of woods and fields found in Fort Tryon Park and Inwood Hill Park. Worse, some Inwood dog owners let their dogs off the leash, which allows them to dash off into the woods and disturb and sometimes kill wildlife. (Ranger Jerry suspects that pit bulls, popular among some Inwood residents, are the biggest offenders.)
Birds fare much better and Inwood Hill Park has healthy populations of hawks, falcons, ducks and even the occasional eagle, which can be seen floating on ice flows this time of year, looking for fish.
So where might a person find these deer? Ranger Jerry recommends the quieter portions of the park to the west of the highway and near the Amtrak rail lines.
The Inwood Hill Nature Center is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The number is 212-304-2365. Its a great place for kids.
By: Chris Rizzo