‘Incredible Waste of Money:’ America’s Most Ineffective Deer Management Program
New York City gave 1,719 whitetail bucks on Staten Island the “big snip” the past four autumns as part of an 8-year, deer vasectomy experiment. The program hopes to reduce the herd population, Lyme disease, browse damage, and deer-vehicle collisions. It has cost the city $6.6 million so far.
As of early March—before coronavirus devastated NYC—City Hall remained committed to the vasectomy program, which began in 2016 as a 3-year, $3.3 million project. Wildlife experts opposed it publicly as early as 2015, warning that taxpayer money can’t buy alternative biology and happily-ever-after results.
The experts cited previous contraceptive experiments that targeted female deer, and generally failed to reduce herds and their problems. Vasectomies were previously tried in mostly futile, prohibitively expensive research to control free-ranging coyotes and feral cats, but might help reduce wild horse numbers.
As Cornell University ecologists predicted in 2015, original herd size estimates on Staten Island proved too low. Therefore, the program’s costs climbed to $4.1 million by the third year as contractors tranquilized, sterilized, and ear-tagged more bucks than planned. At $4.1 million, the mass vasectomies have cost $2,385 per buck. Even so, the city’s parks department extended the program in September 2019 for five years by agreeing to an additional $2.5 million for the contractor, White Buffalo, a nonprofit from Connecticut.
White Buffalo’s biologists and staffers shoot bucks with tranquilizer darts and perform the vasectomies. Dr. Anthony DeNicola, White Buffalo’s founder, estimated in March that his group has so far treated 95% of Staten Island’s bucks, but other experts still doubt the program can succeed.
Endless Costs Prof. Paul Curtis at Cornell opposed the vasectomy plan before its launch, telling the Staten Island Advance newspaper in May 2016, “This plan has a very low likelihood of success.”
His doubts remain. “When they started, they thought they had about 1,000 does on Staten Island, and estimated they’d have to do vasectomies on 500 to 600 bucks,” Curtis told MeatEater in March. “They’ve already done more vasectomies [1,719] than the herd’s original population. That’s the problem with ‘open’ deer herds. You’ll never stop deer from immigrating or moving around. Controlling their numbers is like mowing your lawn. You can never quit once you start. You’ll always need annual maintenance budgets.”
Staten Island covers 60 square miles, and includes roughly half of NYC’s public parks. Those city, state, and federal parklands cover about 15 square miles. Staten Island has 475,000 residents, three times fewer than Manhattan, making it the least populated of NYC’s five boroughs. It’s also home to overabundant wild turkeys and feral cats.
Deer weren’t a problem until the past decade. Whitetails disappeared on Staten Island in the late 1800s and didn’t return until the mid-1990s. Biologists think they started their comeback by swimming narrower sections of Raritan Bay from New Jersey—roughly a 2-mile paddle—to find better, less-crowded habitat.
Aerial surveys estimated Staten Island held about 25 deer in 2008 and 800 in 2014. After White Buffalo performed vasectomies on 642 adult bucks and 78 buck fawns in late 2016, DeNicola used trail camera data from the borough’s parks to estimate the island’s herd at 2,050. Most Staten Island deer are likely born there, but biologists assume dispersing deer will always swim ashore each year as well.
Deer Politics Annual swimmer numbers aren’t known, but they further complicate the controversial vasectomy program. James Oddo, Staten Island’s borough president, and Rep. Max Rose, Staten Island’s congressman, favor controlled hunts over vasectomies.
That pits them against Mayor Bill de Blasio, who backs the program even though it lacks an endgame. De Blasio dismissed Rose’s criticisms in January, telling the New York Post the vasectomy program is working: “It is the right way to go to get the job done, and you know the last thing we want to do is risk human life with the wrong kind of approach.”
(The rest of the article is at the link)
You don't say? And they "only" spent 4.1 million on it, too. Amazing..
Can I ask who ties the mayor's shoes for him in the morning?
I wonder if the procedure creates nontypical bucks.
But there’s my mistake- presumption of Logic...