Are Vasectomies the Future of Deer Management?

September 22, 2016 | by Nick Pinizzotto

If you’ve been following along on the NDA Facebook page and our website, you’ve undoubtedly seen the articles we posted about the $2 million vasectomy plan currently being implemented in Staten Island in an attempt to control the deer herd in the New York City borough. As much as I wish it was just humorous science fiction, it is very real, and dozens of unlucky bucks are getting snipped at this very moment.

I’m not going to get into all of the reasons why this project is tragically short-sighted and will inevitably fail because it has been discussed ad nauseam, not only in this case, but the many others across the country where contraception and sterilization have been attempted to control deer. Perhaps Cornell University ecologist Bernd Blossey said it best in a recent article by stating, “It’s difficult for me to come up with all the reasons why this is a really stupid plan. It’s ridiculous from the onset.” Even members of the city’s interagency deer task force suggested that the plan has a very low likelihood of success, but apparently Mayor Bill de Blasio knows better.

Once again we’re seeing the political science overtake the biological science as Mayor de Blasio and other city officials suggested that drugging bucks and performing vasectomies on them is the fastest and most humane way to limit future growth. I wonder where they’re getting that information. It seems pretty clear that it’s coming from some Staten Island residents and animal rights extremists with an emotion-driven agenda that aims to avoid the culling of any deer on the Island.

It’s worth mentioning that it was Mayor de Blasio that supported a ban on horse carriages earlier this year that failed miserably, and fundraising as part of that effort is now under federal investigation. In regard to the vasectomy plan, Mayor de Blasio said, “It is very consistent with, I think, the most modern thinking of how we deal with animal issues.” That’s interesting because I don’t remember vasectomies being in the playbook of qualified wildlife experts for effective and humane wild deer management. Even the New York Department of Environmental Conservation does not recommend fertility control programs due to limited effectiveness. Nonetheless, a permit was issued to the borough because it was argued that Staten Island is a unique situation, and because the vasectomy program is being couched as scientific study.

This is just the latest high profile example of politicians and special interest groups involving themselves in the business of deer management. While any project like this should provide citizens the opportunity to comment and ask questions, and elected officials certainly have a role to play, the input from trained and experienced experts in these matters should carry the bulk of the weight. Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening in a growing number of places across the country, and that’s a concern.

As deer enthusiasts, we need to be proactive with elected officials and help educate them about proven and scientifically supported deer management practices. It’s easy to point our fingers and laugh when we see situations like Staten Island, but that’s a reactionary response that does nothing to further the cause of wild deer conservation. This is where NDA can make a difference with your help. If you are aware of a deer management issue that concerns you, please let us know. We won’t always win, but working together we can accomplish great things for wild deer, and for hunters. The last thing we want is for vasectomies and other forms of sterilization and contraception to become the future of deer management. It’s not as far-fetched as you might think.