Hunting is neither an effective nor a humane solution to managing deer populations. According to the Humane Society of the United States, killing programs are highly controversial, difficult to execute, and ineffective in the long term. Sharp-shoots that are often proposed to reduce the number of deer in a community are expensive. There are direct costs associated with sharp-shoot programs as well as police overtime, meat transportation and processing, and administration. Bow hunting is ineffective and inhumane. About half of the deer struck with an arrow are crippled, but not killed causing injury and prolonged suffering. Although hunting may reduce the deer population in the short term, it is not a sustainable method of controlling the number of deer in a community.
Hunting is ineffective because high reproductive rates in deer can easily overcompensate for a drastic population decline. As more food becomes available, their reproduction can increase (often with the birth of twins or triplets) and the population bounces back. Removal tends to have an oscillating effect. Angel Island in California conducted a biannual cull over a 5 year period (a reduction in the deer population from 215 to 25). The result was a rebound of 250 deer.
Wildlife fertility control offers a humane and effective way to manage deer populations. PZP, an immunocontraceptive vaccine which has been implemented and studied throughout the United States, has been proven to successfully manage the deer population. Between 1993 and 1997, 74-164 female deer living on Fire Island, New York were treated with a shot of PZP. Fawning rates among treated deer decreased by 78.9%. In 1999-2000 surveys, fawns comprised of 13-14% of the total population in treated areas, versus 16-33% in untreated areas.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) partnered with the Humane Society of the United States in order to implement PZP on a deer population in Gaithersburg, MD. In the first full four years of the program (1997-2000), where does received two doses of PZP, the number of births was cut by approximately 72%. The fawns that were born during the period were likely the result of does who did not receive the vaccination or only received the first dose. Since 2000, the birth rates have remained low. PZP has recently been improved to prevent deer from having fawns for up to three years with one treatment.
Another option to humanely control deer population is surgical sterilization which, although it can be expensive, has recently had great success. In a sterilization program performed in Maryland, deer were anesthetized in a field and sterilized by a veterinarian. The procedure was performed on 32 female deer and will prevent the births of hundreds of fawns.
Fencing, habitat modification and public education are all efficient methods of minimizing damage by local deer populations. Fencing helps to deter deer and protect property by keeping deer away from gardens. Another option would be to utilize a range of deer repellents, such as Liquid Fence, which gives off an odor that deer associate with predators. Public education campaigns, an example being the “Don’t Veer for Deer” campaign, help communities avoid deer-car collisions.
We urge the New York City to promote humane ways of living with wildlife that would be safe for residents and animals alike.