The village of East Hampton on Long Island is experiencing a deer boom, a problem that it shares with neighboring towns. This year, however, the town of just about 1,000 residents will be rolling out a new strategy to deal with the increasing deer population. According to CBS News, East Hampton officials plan on moving ahead with surgical sterilization of more than 100 does. The program will cost the city about $130,000—roughly $1,000 for every doe—and so far the village board has only raised $30,000. Supporters of the plan say that the expense is worth it.
“I’ve had Lyme disease several times and it’s just horrible,” one resident said. “We should just kill the deer. We need to do it now.”
An increase in Lyme disease is just one of the concerns associated with a growing deer population in close proximity with humans. Residents also worry that deer will cause property and forest damage, as well fuel as an uptick in traffic incidents. Earlier this year East Hampton decided not to go forward with a traditional deer cull by sharpshooters after protests by both animal rights advocates and hunters. Instead of expanding the deer hunting season, however, East Hampton’s Village Preservation Society convinced the board to opt for a surgical sterilization instead.
“There are some among us who do not approve of hunting, who are philosophically opposed to hunting,” Kathleen Cunningham, executive director of the Village Preservation Society, told Newsday. “There are also some among us who hunt and approve of hunting. What we found more ethically challenging was that nothing was being done.”
Newsday reported that the village is looking at hiring White Buffalo Inc., a non-profit deer management service, to sterilize the animals. The actual operation involves a team of four biologists and at least one veterinarian, who will work at night. The does are tranquilized at a bait site and then transported elsewhere for a 12-minute surgery to remove their ovaries. Workers then tag the does so hunters will recognize which deer have been sterilized in the following season.
White Buffalo president Tony DeNicola says that a team can sterilize up to 20 does in one night. In 2012 White Buffalo employees managed to successfully sterilize 137 does over a two-week period in nearby Cayuga Heights.
The decision to surgically sterilize deer is not likely to please local hunters, who wanted an expansion of where they were allowed to hunt in the area. Local hunting organizations, such as Hunters for Deer, told The East Hampton Press earlier this year that deer are living in places where hunters were not allowed to harvest them. Sportsmen said that hunting is cheaper and more effective at lowering deer populations than sharpshooters or sterilization.