Residents of New York’s Staten Island are in need of help. Their borough is thick with deer and their population-reduction strategies are stopping short of keeping their numbers under control, and they want to kick off a big bow hunt.
Wildlife management implemented a vasectomy program that’s run for the past three years, however, residents and officials want a better, more effective solution.
“You need to remove the deer. And I don’t mean relocate. They need to be taken out,” said experienced hunter Corey Bruggeman to the Wall Street Journal. “I would gladly give my time to that. I think it is an important issue. And I think a lot of people in Staten Island, they’re passionate about what they’re suggesting.”
However, wildlife management chief Sarah Aucoin supports the reproduction control program. “We are at the end of a three-year program that has shown success. Killing hundreds of deer was, and still is, a last resort.”
Staten Island officials hired East Coast firm White Buffalo to run the vasectomy program to the tune of $4.1 million over the three-year period. The company estimates they achieved a 15 percent reduction in the original deer population of about 2,000 in 2017.
White Buffalo claims to have sterilized 98 percent of the borough’s buck population and is currently finalizing a new five-year contract with Staten Island leadership. At over $4 million, that costs Staten Island taxpayers several thousand dollars for every male deer castrated.
Cornell University specialist Paul Curtis called White Buffalo’s estimates into question. “I wouldn’t consider that a success because at a 15 to 20 percent drop, you’ll probably see very little difference in deer collisions, no difference in deer damage or foraging on sensitive plant communities, and no difference in Lyme disease rates.”
Staten Island Borough President James Oddo openly criticized the vasectomy program. Oddo joined the state Department of Environmental Conservation in opposing the program, which stated: “as fertility-control programs are expensive and have not been proven effective, especially when conducted on male deer.”
Oddo and wildlife management believe a coordinated bow hunt could have a meaningful impact on the deer population. Oddo hopes to organize a bow hunt by the end of the year.
Tight quarters may make hunting difficult even for bow hunters. “There’s no place hunters can go and not worry about someone else coming into the forest with them,” said local hunter Chris Kiladitris.
Others are more optimistic and see a bow hunt as a great option. “I’d much rather a deer die and be used for food and hunting purposes as opposed to it getting hit by a car, suffering, and laying out in the middle of the expressway,” said Marisa Semioli, another local hunter.
Deer on Staten Island have no natural predators. Like with other uncontrolled deer populations, they do serious damage to their environment and foster tick-borne diseases.