By now you all should know how closely Diane and I have worked together over the years and how much I respect her, so I took absolutely no offense at what she said; my initial reaction when I heard about this method wasn’t very much different at all. This approach appeared to fly in the face of counsel I had received from various experts, who stated simply that culling was the only true effective tactic for reducing the deer population, and that if there was the will to do it, it could be done effectively and safely on Staten Island.
Then a few weeks ago my team and I met with Dr. Anthony DiNicola, President of White Buffalo, Inc., who decided vasectomies were the best methodology given the legal and other hurdles we would face if we chose more aggressive measures. White Buffalo is a non-profit organization that is pre-eminent in controlling deer populations, and was hired by the City to spearhead this effort.
It was fascinating meeting. Dr. DiNicola carefully and thoroughly articulated the case for the vasectomy approach, given the constraints and obstacles we would face with culling, chemical sterilization, catch and release and other more expensive lethal and non-lethal options. And although White Buffalo is adept, by the way, at all of these methods, they still consider administering vasectomies to the male population the best approach for now, for Staten Island, given our unique situation.
There are clearly some positives with this approach. For one thing, it will start virtually immediately (they will be in the field the first week of September) and at a comparatively reasonable cost. We must also face the unavoidable reality that with any of the other methods, given the passionate interest of advocacy groups across the city, we would face environmental and legal hurdles that would set us back years. Just as in other jurisdictions, we would be bogged down with litigation while absolutely NOTHING was taking place to address the exploding deer population.
Once you listen to Dr. Nicola’s detailed explanation the science behind it does seem logical, despite what the armchair quarterbacks (including me) may think. Yes, the females will remain in estrus for a longer period of time, but conversely, I learned that testosterone levels are directly tied to hours of sunlight, and so the males that have not yet received vasectomies will lose their mating desire as the days grow shorter.
We expect to learn a lot about the real extent of this problem; they will be putting numbered ear tags on all the deer they bait and treat, which will lead to a much more accurate count of the deer population on the island. As well, radio collars with GPS capability will be placed on 60 males and 50 females, so tracking the herds with a high degree of accuracy will finally become a reality.
Look, this may work too slowly, or not work at all, I’m very well aware of that. If it doesn’t we’ll move on to one of the other options - but we need to take this lightning quick (as the city measures time) first step. Already the ecological damage to our greenspaces is becoming readily apparent, the Lyme Disease increase we feared is now documented (see recent DOH stats here) and with the undeniable increase in the deer population, it’s still just a matter of time before a deer/vehicular collision results in a tragedy.
Shame on us if we don’t take any and every measure available to avoid this. Doing nothing is the one option we don’t have.