Animal Issues

in Hillside Woods


A forest can healthfully sustain about ten deer per square mile. We have 70-120 in Hastings' two square miles (of which much is paved and with houses! - and this is down from the peak of 270 pre-contraception study and coywolf expansion). The foresters who looked at our woods said it was the worst case of deer over-browse they had seen in their careers. The deer are eating things that they would normally turn up their noses at, such as beech trees.

Deer are surviving by eating our yards. They mainly sleep in the woods and nibble on anything that sprouts up as they go by.


Dogs off-leash ravage ground-nesting birds and other small animals. Their waste, high in nitrogen, alters soil chemistry and supports non-native plants. Aggregating through the watershed, dog waste is a huge issue in Westchester County. Dog waste can also carry diseases, which can impact other dogs, humans, and woodland animals. Dogs in Sugar Pond erode its edges. While it's fun for dogs to run free in Hillside Woods, it's bad for the forest and against the rules.

See this short study on the impact of dogs on wildlife.


The number of people using Hillside Woods compacts and widens trails. Humans can inadvertently transport seeds, fungi and tree diseases in on their boots. People have planted invasive species such as Japanese barberry in their yards, which arrive in the woods by birds carrying their berries. And people drive cars, which contributes to the air pollution impacting area vegetation and wildlife. But humans can also consciously and conscientiously support the Hillside Woods ecosystem through education and action.

Red-Eared Sliders

Red-eared sliders that are found in nature are usually abandoned pets. There are many in Sugar Pond. They crowd out native turtle species, create harmful algal blooms in local waterways, and can expose humans to salmonella.

The species can live for months without food, slowing metabolism when resources are scarce. When food is prevalent, they will eat just about anything, including fish, insects, vegetation, and even snacks like potato chips. Their sturdy shells and speed in the water provide tough defenses against predators such as raccoons and coyotes.

As their numbers explode, native species suffer.

Read why you should never release an exotic pet into the environment.


Somehow some koi were released in Sugar Pond in the last couple of years. These have grown to enormous size—and have voracious appetites.