November 2, 2001

Deer on the Move

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As the deer population in Cayuga Heights continues to grow, researchers at Cornell University have offered to lend a hand in solving the problem.

At a town meeting approximately three years ago Cayuga Heights residents expressed concern among themselves regarding the expanding deer population. This resulted in the collaboration between 12 residents to form the Cayuga Deer Committee. The committee’s goal was to reduce the destruction of gardens and automobile collisions involving deer.

Upon learning of the committee’s ideas, Lisa Chase grad offered the assistance of researchers at Cornell who are involved with the Cornell Cooperative Extension Program and the Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The community was receptive because they wanted the information,” said William Siemer, a researcher in the natural resources department. “It was a good trade-off because we saw this [deer problem] developing on its own and thought this was a good opportunity to interact with the community.”

One of the main reason for Cornell’s involvement with the project is because deer populations are rapidly expanding across New York State. The Department of Environmental Conservation has been implementing deer management task forces at checkpoints in New York to combat the problem, but would like to try other approaches.

These approaches include sterilization or another type of reproduction control for the deer. By experimenting with this solution in Cayuga Heights, the agency may be able to use the results as a model for other communities.

There has been some controversy surrounding the type of population check to be implemented. Currently, Paul Curtis, associate professor of natural resources, is trying to estimate the number of deer migrating into and out of Cayuga Heights each year to determine whether reproductive control is a productive solution.

Alternatives to a reproductive control include increased fencing around property and the opening of a much-unwanted hunting season.

“There is no support for a sport hunt, because there are too many homes in

the area,” Siemer said.

The reproductive control option has been received fairly well by the Cayuga Heights residents so far. The plan would include capturing the deer and transporting them to Cornell’s College School of Veterinary Medicine. There they would undergo a surgical sterilization procedure before being re-released into the wild.

Today, Cornell and the Cayuga Deer Committee still face many questions despite the progress that has been made. Still undetermined is whether the deer population is small enough for a reproductive control to be effective, how fast such a solution could work and whether enough deer will be affected to accomplish the committee’s goal.

According to Siemer, the deer population seems to be of an appropriate size, but more research still needs to be done.

“We feel [the endeavor] has been somewhat successful because there has been useful deliberation in the community,” Siemer said. “There has been social learning and people have kept talking about it for a few years. They are moving forward and that is a positive thing.”

Archived article by Rachel Einschlag