Sterilization has long been floated as an alternative to traditional methods of keeping the deer population low, such as hunting or hiring sharpshooters, but will this costly strategy work? Some experts are shaking their head over Staten Island’s proposed $2 million deer sterilization program. Bernd Blossey, a Cornell University biologist who was consulted for the program, told the Staten Island Advance recently that the plan was ludicrous.
“It’s difficult for me to come up with all the reasons why this is a really stupid plan,” Blossey said. “It’s ridiculous from the onset.”
Blossey is not the only wildlife expert that feels that way either. Several other experts brought in to access the situation also say the plan has little chance of success. The problem is that Staten Island now has an estimated 1,000 deer, far more than the borough can support. The deer are starting to invade residents’ gardens, create a hazard for motorists, and are generally becoming an ecological disaster. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other officials proposed revisiting a sterilization attempt. The proposal involves sterilizing only the male deer, which theoretically could be done in as little as 15 minutes each.
Officials believe the plan will reduce the deer population by up to 30 percent. That sounds good on paper, but putting it into practice will be harder than it sounds, says experts.
“This proposal has no chance of success whatsoever,” Paul Curtis, an ecologist also with Cornell University, told The New York Post.
Curtis was part of another attempt in Ithaca to sterilize bucks with vasectomies, but he noted that in that case, only three animals were sterilized before the program was called off. The reason was not only that it was costly and time intensive, but also because it was dangerous work.
Additionally, other sterilization programs have typically focused on does. This is due to the fact that one buck can breed many does during the same season. However, supporters of the program say that bucks are easier to capture and vasectomies are cheaper and safer to perform.
The proposal still has to be approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation before it can go into effect. Officially, the department does not recommend sterilization attempts due to their checkered history. If approved, the program can begin as early as this fall.