It was doomed to fail because it didn't take into account the survival instinct of deer and now, it's created even more problems
Staten Island still has a big problem. Back in 2014, it was concluded that there were too many deer on the island.
Well, there are still too many deer in 2017.
But not to worry, because Mayor Bill de Blasio had a plan back then, and he is sticking to it. And since he had (and still has) deep pockets full of taxpayer money to back up his plan, it continues to move forward. I’m sure taxpayers were gratified to know that his plan would only cost $2 million (It has since exceeded $3.3M).
And, unfortunately, that plan is doomed to failure long before it even began. That failure can be chalked up to an urban mentality.
So what was the plan? The mayor wanted to give every buck on the island a vasectomy.
Now stop laughing. He really thought (and still thinks) there would not be any bang for Staten Island’s bucks once he established his vasectomy plan to sterilize the borough’s male deer.
So far, 540 bucks have received vasectomies through the city’s plan to cut down on Staten Island's white-tailed herd. That's already more than the 527 male and female deer the city counted during the most recent ariel survey of the herd last year.
So why was this plan doomed to failure from the beginning? It relied on the nature of deer as a species, but failed to take into account their very strong survival instincts.
Female white-tailed deer go into heat in the fall rutting season. When that happens they emit a powerful scent that attracts males that will chase them until every doe is bred.
Normally, the rut will last a month or two. Those few does that escape the advances of bucks and go unbred will come back into estrus around 30 days later.
If they are not bred after that second period, they will come back into estrus every 30 days until they are. That cycle lasts until March or April.
But with bucks shooting blanks, the does will go into heat repeatedly throughout the fall and winter. They will become “buck magnets,” according to a Cornell study. And here is the real twist to this situation: The doe’s attractive scent will attract many bucks, including still-potent males following the scent and swimming over from New Jersey.
There is another problem, and it can be found in numbers. A survey completed in 2008 found there were 24 deer on the entire island.
Another survey, completed in 2014, showed a population of 763. That figure represents at least 300 bucks, and probably closer to 350. Capturing and neutering that many bucks will be a nearly impossible task. And remember that, if they miss even 10 percent, it is probable that every doe will be bred.
Other problems? They are almost too numerous to count. One of the most important is that neutered bucks might be sterile but would still have a strong sex drive. So during an extended rutting season, in addition to harassing every doe there would be more perilous encounters with humans as the mad-with-lust bucks heedlessly run around looking for mates.
I did some research in the New York Post archives relating to Staten Island buck-human interactions during the 2016 rutting period. I found that a young buck busted through a strip-mall store window. Another got trapped in a backyard above-ground swimming pool. And bucks gored pet dogs, ran onto busy highways, and ran into numerous vehicles, including police cars. Staten Island was a deer war zone for around six months.
Is there an answer to the deer overpopulation problems that are now common in cities across much of America? After all, we know that neutering bucks or surgical sterilization of female deer does not work.
Neither does “trap and transfer.” Traps or nets typically catch only the least wary deer. And chemical contraceptives are ineffective after a year or two.
That leaves culling or killing surplus deer by either employing or permitting archers or sharpshooters to kill a significant portion of the herd. It is the only viable alternative.
With the advent of super-accurate crossbows and sound-suppressors on small caliber rifles, the only problem remaining is getting close enough for one of those two implements to be humanely effective.
And what is Mayor de Blasio’s response to this $3.3 million debacle?
“We are very confident in our proposal,” said a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office recently. “It’s a smart approach that can be implemented quickly, before the problem increases.”
Unfortunately their three years of quick implementation is a wasted effort. It was doomed before it even began.
And it is all because those urban-minded blow-hards didn’t take the time to talk to or listen to a single DEC deer biologist. How stupid is that?
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Here is a little “Did You Know?” Insects make up two thirds of known species. And did you know that invertebrates (critters without backbones) make up around 98 percent of all known species?
One of my favorite insects (along with dragonflies and mayflies) is the ladybug. Did you know that ladybugs “bleed” to protect themselves. When alarmed, they release drops of a reddish or yellowish bitter tasting liquid from their mouths and from the pores at their joints. This repels prospective attackers. This substance is extremely effective in that regard.
And, if you handle a single ladybug you can often smell the slightly offensive residue on your fingers.
Many animals have developed chemical-like defenses. Skunks and other members of their family propel stinky fluids as defensive tactics or to mark their territories. Toads excrete a bitter poison from the two large “warts” on their backs. And the stink-bug family got its name from its perfection of bad smells and bitter tastes.
Len Lisenbee is the Daily Messenger’s Outdoor Columnist. Contact him at lisenbee@frontiernet .net.