Over 90,000 people have signed a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals petition against deer hunting in Sapsucker Woods, a Cornell-owned sanctuary which currently permits bow hunting to regulate the deer population.
According to the Cornell Botanic Gardens website, a recent uptick in deer population has jeopardized the health of the Sapsucker Woods, causing a decrease in populations of native plants, increased growth of invasive species, and higher rates of Lyme disease in the area.
As a result, Cornell has taken steps to proactively curtail the growth of deer population in the forest, including regulated bow hunting. This method permits those in the hunting community to hunt deer by archery on designated grounds. Firearm use is not permitted.
Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary spans 220 acres and is home to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, whose mission is to conserve biological diversity wildlife through research and education.
PETA was first made aware of the University’s policy as a result of complaints sent to it by a number of Cornell students and faculty, Ken Montville, a PETA representative told The Sun during a phone interview.
On Sept. 27, PETA reached out in a letter to the University to protest what it believes to be Cornell’s misguided efforts to control deer population, categorizing the University’s actions as “cruel.”
The organization argued that hunting is a counterproductive method of managing deer population because a temporary reduction in the population can lead to a subsequent spike in food supply that increases breeding and attracts more deer into the region.
PETA decried in their petition that the University’s policy of deer hunting only causes deer suffering by destroying families. Furthermore, they cite that since the “wound rate” of hunting activities is 50 percent, hunting prolongs the agony of deaths of many wounded deer who are shot but ultimately escape.
Montville also warned that there is a potential danger posed to people who hike in the sanctuary since there is a possibility that the people would be mistaken for deer when hunters pursue their prey in the dark dusk or dawn.
In place of hunting, the animal rights organization urged the University to implement more humane means of population control such as contraceptive vaccines, fencing and repellants.
Cornell responded to PETA’s concerns in an email dated Oct. 1 sent to the president of the organization from Joel M. Malina, vice president of university relations, which was obtained by The Sun. In the email, Malina explained that Cornell’s deer population management program utilizes a variety of population control methods in addition to deer hunting. These additional methods include surgical sterilization and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation approved nuisance deer-control permits.
The school maintains that actions taken under their program, including bow hunting, are necessary in order to help preserve the health of the forest, to allow teaching and research using the forest’s resources and to reduce risks to human health and safety on campus.
“Public safety will not be compromised during deer management activities,” Malina assured.
PETA does not feel satisfied by the response and hopes that by demonstrating public support for its cause through the petition, it can convince the school to overturn their deer hunting policy.
According to Montville, in less than two weeks the petition has garnered around 9000 signatures through a combination of social media and word of mouth.
Montville also urged Cornell students to get involved not only by signing the petition but also by personally writing to the University and visiting administrators’ offices.
“Cornell is such a good school and accordingly, they are capable of implementing solutions that are both ethical and safe,” he said.