Last December, officials in the town of Cayuga Heights, New York sterilized 12 does by surgically removing their ovaries. According to the Shreveport Times, the final price of tranquilizing, operating on, and releasing the animals came to $35,808. In 2012, the same procedure was performed on 137 female deer at the price of an eye-raising $148,315. Cayuga Heights is not the only town to use these methods to keep deer in check, which critics are calling prohibitively expensive and ineffective.
“There’s a lot of costs involved and at the same time, there’s a lot of stress placed on the animals,” Quality Deer Management Association’s director of outreach Kip Adams told Fox News. “And at the end of the day, in most cases you still have well over 100 deer per mile, which is at least five times higher than the recommended amount.”
Deer overpopulation is an increasingly prevalent problem in some parts of the East Coast, especially New York. Too many deer could lead to a rapid degradation of their habitat and starvation, as well as conflicts with humans and an increase in deer-automobile accidents. The traditional methods of controlling these populations were to call in hunters or professional marksmen, but a number of towns decided to go for what they believe is a more humane approach.
“We are bound by suburban rules in dealing with [the deer], and violence is not how we deal with neighbors we don’t like,” said Dr. Allen Rutberg last year.
Rutberg is the director of the Tufts University Center for Animals and Public Policy and is heading an initiative in the New York town of Hastings-on-Hudson to sterilize deer. Instead of using surgery however, Rutberg intends on giving the animals a contraceptive vaccine. The town later received a permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to carry out the experiment, despite the DEC not recommending such programs. Fox News reported the average cost of sterilizing a doe costs about $1,200 per animal, and is much more labor-intensive than employing marksmen or hunters.
“Fertility control is often suggested or advocated by individuals and organizations as a humane and cost-effective way to control deer populations or to reduce damages or conflicts associated with deer, especially in urban-suburban areas,” read a report by the DEC. “However, based on considerable research on fertility control for deer, including several studies sponsored by DEC, this strategy has not proven to be a viable, stand-alone option for managing free-ranging deer populations.”
Some also question the ethics of performing surgery on a large number of deer and the effects of the operation on the animals’ well-being. Many hunters and sportsmen’s associations oppose surgical means of sterilizing deer, saying that hunting is cheaper, more effective, and does not waste a valuable resource.
Image courtesy New York State Department of Environmental Conservation