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Typically when a deer population goes out of control, wildlife officials find a solution that involves a bow or a rifle. It’s not uncommon to find a lottery for an off-season hunt with a low limit for bucks and does, but New York City has developed a completely different solution. They’re planning to spend $2 million on a deer vasectomy program, we’re not joking.
According to Staten Island Live, the city is moving forward with the plan. Spokesman Eric Sumberg said, “On Tuesday, the Comptroller’s office gave approval for the Parks Department request to use an emergency procurement to initiate a three-year sterilization study of deer on Staten Island.”
In 2014 an aerial study found 763 deer on the island, but the population is believed to be well over 1000 by now. City officials are concerned about the danger posed by unlimited population growth on forests and private property.
The first sterilizations are schedule to begin in September of this year. Hundreds of bucks will be tranquilized, captured, sterilized, and released back into the wild. The city plans to monitor the population over a three year period. Mayor Bill de Blasio approves this method believing it to be the fastest and most humane option. Wildlife experts disagree.
Cornell University ecologist Bernd Blossey told SI Live, “It’s difficult for me to come up with all the reasons why this is a really stupid plan. It’s ridiculous from the onset.” He continued to argue that the city is ignoring herd management practices and sterilization methods similar to this one have failed in the past. He also argues that this plan will do little to stop the immediate concerns associated with unchecked population growth. He continued to say, “Spread of Lyme disease, collisions [with cars], impact on native vegetation or animals — that will continue.”
Fellow ecologist Paul Curtis has a similar opinion, “This plan has very low likelihood of success.” He continued to cite a similar study done in Ithaca, New York, “We could only do three vasectomies — it wasn’t safe for the deer and wasn’t safe for us.”
Reproductive zoologist John Rasweiler who has served with deer management groups on Long Island agrees, “It’s an incredibly foolish idea. $2 million the first year? Absolute lunacy, particularly since it’s not going to work.”
Arguably foolhardy plans like this exist because hunting is illegal in New York City, and the city believes sterilization will be cheaper than euthanizing a portion of the population. Pressure for a ‘more humane’ solution from animal rights activists has also played a part in the city’s decision. Conservationist author Jim Sterba commented, “Arguing there are non-lethal solutions delays the inevitable conclusion that most communities come to — that they’ve got to kill some deer.”