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July 17, 2013

Deer Forum Tomorrow



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Tomorrow at 5 PM at the Emergency Services Building on Cedar Street in East Hampton, the Village Preservation Society will host an informational forum on deer control.

The guest speaker will be Dr. Anthony DeNicola, co-founder and President of White Buffalo, Inc., a nonprofit wildlife management and research organization dedicated to conserving native species and ecosystems through damage and population control.  Dr. DeNicola has had success with deer reproductive control projects, nationwide, most recently a sterilization project in the Village of Cayuga Heights, in upstate New York.

According to organizers, this evening will be a basic primer on the successes of doe sterilization, how such a program may be instituted in a municipality with firearm constraints like East Hampton Village and why this approach could help to overcome the unavailability of lethal methods of deer management.

Last fall a study published by three researchers from Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Science along with DeNicola reviewed sterilization as an alternative deer control technique, including a look at the program in Cayuga Heights. Between 2002 and 2004, 24 female deer were surgically sterilized via tubal ligation in the affluent community within the town of Ithaca upstate.

According to the study, "Sterilization alone was unlikely the sole cause of reduction in deer numbers in Cayuga Heights." A harsh winter may have decreased survival rates. And, although Cornell University's Large Animal Hospital donated surgery expenses, the cost exceeded $1000 per deer.

Communities ready to commit to sterilization should be prepared for a long term effort, and because of the white tailed deer's high survival and reproductive rates in suburban landscapes, the researchers recommended that more than 80 percent of the female deer should be treated. That could be cost-prohibitive. If a community can't target more than 50 percent of the female population, "Then sterilization should not be implemented due to cost and lack of efficacy," the paper states.

Interestingly, while tubal ligation has been safely used on urban white tailed deer, one study found an increase in vehicle mortality for the sterilized deer – they get around more because they're non-maternal. And because those who receive tubal ligation continue to experience estrus cycles, they could attract more bucks into their home range.

Results from modeling "do not bode well" for the feasibility of sterilization as the only method for decreasing a deer population, especially if immigration of other deer into the community offsets decreases due to sterilization, the study states.

The report suggests an initial effort at lethal control (i.e. culling) may be more successful in controlling overabundant herds. Once the population is decreased through lethal means, sterilization could be more effective than lethal control in maintaining desired population levels. And, because fewer deer need to be treated, program expenses will be lessened.

In East Hampton Village, there are no open hunting areas for deer. The paper concludes, "Should communities be willing to endure the costs of a long-term effort, surgical sterilization may be a viable option for reducing deer populations where lethal deer removal is impractical." Immigration and emigration rates of the deer herds -- how many move between village and town -- will affect both the effectiveness and time scale for any program.

kmerrill@indyeastend.com

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