City Releases New Report on Controversial Staten Island Deer Vasectomy Program; does it work?
STATEN ISLAND, NY – Five years after the city’s deer vasectomy program began, the city says there has been a “significant decline” in the total deer population on Staten Island, which could lead to a decline large number if the program is maintained.
While data collected during this period – and recently published in a report titled Managing the impacts of deer on Staten Island – shows a reduction in the number of collisions with deer and vehicles, cases of Lyme disease and the number of ticks, some data is inconclusive and without important context, said Borough President James Oddo and the Deputy Borough President Ed Burke.
“Are the numbers decreasing with the number of deer found or are they really representative of the number of deer present? Oddo asked, adding that his office had sent the report to researchers at Cornell University to further analyze the data.
According to the city report, the total deer population increased from around 2,053 in the first year of the project (2016 to 2017) to around 1,555 in the fourth year of the project (2019 to 2020). ), but there have long been questions about the accuracy of the deer count.
Despite these questions and the exorbitant cost, Mayor Bill de Blasio was never dissuaded from pursuing the controversial program, which was the first of its kind in a major American city.
Using vasectomy to address the borough’s growing deer population – which was causing various concerns, including an increase in the number of residents with Lyme disease, vehicle collisions around the island and environmental damage – was initially set to cost $ 3.3 million, but doubled to $ 6.6 million last year.
The cost of the program came under scrutiny when it was revealed that only 7.6% of the $ 4.1 million spent at the time was used for deer sterilization efforts.
As an alternative, Oddo previously suggested controlled culling to curb the population. The idea was supported by state and federal authorities, but the city expressed concerns about jurisdiction and chose to go ahead with the vasectomy program.
“For me, the vasectomy program was the route of least resistance,” Oddo said. “Fans will say that was the only way to get something done ASAP because we knew a showdown would eventually lead to litigation. The money that was spent gave the city the plausible deniability that we did something.
Yet Oddo and Burke maintain that a cull, or even a combined program of culling and vasectomy, would have yielded the most immediate results, not only in preventing deer from reproducing, but in preventing further ecological devastation caused by the overpopulation of deer in the borough.
“I think the jury is still very out,” he said.
“Long before the pandemic our mantra at Borough Hall has been to follow the science and at first glance the data looks impressive on the total number of deer, the number of ticks, the number of accidents, on a number of metrics. that they took to protect the trees, but it’s a bit shallow. I think before I pass judgment and give my guts the floor, I want someone expert in the matter to look at the data and come to a conclusion.
OVER 90% OF ESTIMATED DEER POPULATION STERILIZED
According to the city’s recent report, which was released by the Wildlife Unit of the Department of Parks and Recreation, a total of 1,719 male deer – 93% of the borough’s estimated male deer population – were sterilized at the end of the fourth year of the project in 2020.
City contractor White Buffalo counted about 2,053 deer on Staten Island in his first population estimate.
“This shows that the sterilization study is already having an impact on the population. With maintenance, the program has the potential to lead to significant and continued reductions in the size of Staten Island’s deer population, ”the report says.
There were 58 vehicle collisions involving deer in the fourth year of the project, up from 111 when the project began. Additionally, the Sanitation Department (DSNY) has started working with a private contractor to remove deer carcasses, a measure that the report says “has dropped significantly” to 43 percent.
Lyme disease cases have increased from 123 in 2016 and 2017 to 53 in 2019. The city is currently investigating 24 sites on Staten Island for blacklegged ticks, which are known carriers of Lyme disease.
In addition, the NYPD and the city’s Department of Transportation have installed temporary and permanent variable message signs in areas of the borough where deer collisions are most common and deer are the most spotted.
As part of the program, the city installed 7,262 tree guards, 6,265 linear feet of deer fencing and more than 100,000 plants that deer are less likely to eat, and sprayed over 100 acres of trees. repellents and capped.
AND THE ENVIRONMENT?
The report lacks data on the devastation deer have on the environment, Oddo and Burke said, as well as the necessary context for what is available.
“If you look at the website and you see 7,000 tree guards, you’re like ‘hey, that’s awesome’. You see 6,200 linear feet of deer pens and that’s impressive until you look at how much it takes to actually protect Greenbelt and Staten Island parks and the numbers are exponential. It is an overwhelming job to protect Staten Island Park by putting up fences and tree guards, ”said Oddo.
The problem with neutering deer is that it only prevents them from procreating but does not prevent them from spreading ticks, Lyme disease, and does nothing to stop the environmental damage.
Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve in Charleston, which currently has two exclosures, is the perfect example of a ecosystem that is altered by the presence of deer.
According to Cliff Hagen, president of the Pine Oak Woods Protectors, the park was once covered in various native berry bushes, shrubs and flowers, but now only houses about three types of alien plants due to deer grazing.
“As [the deer] eat these low growing shrubs, these invasive species then start to take over, [such as] stilts and garlic mustard, ”Hagen said, altering chemicals in the soil and ultimately preventing regrowth of native plant life.
“We have to make animal lovers evolve into ecosystem lovers. We don’t help animals if they don’t have an ecosystem to live in where everything is out of balance. If the deer destroy the growth in the forest so that pollinators can’t exist, and all the birds that depend on vegetation to exist, then we’re really not helping nature, ”said Burke.
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