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Cornell Scientists’ Doe Sterilization Program Accidentally Created “Buck Magnets”

deer

A costly attempt to reduce Cornell University’s urban deer population backfired in a bizarre way. 

In an effort to reduce urban deer populations on Cornell University’s campus in Ithaca, NY, scientists sterilized does and mistakenly created “buck magnets”, according to the Washington Post.

Cornell scientists began the sterilization project in 2009 after residents of central campus complained of a growing infestation of whitetail deer. Deer were ravishing local gardens, spreading Lyme disease, and causing car accidents.  Residents demanded action to cull the herd, and most didn’t want to use lethal measures.

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Cornell University’s campus. Wikimedia Commons

Cornell opted for a costly sterilization program instead of lethal control measures. Biologists captured 77 does and blocked their fallopian tubes to make them permanently sterile. The procedure cost roughly $1200 per doe, and it yielded some unexpected and unwanted results.

Paul Curtis, a Cornell wildlife specialist, noticed that the sterilized does still came into estrous, which attracted bucks from miles around to campus. With more bucks coming to campus, the deer population didn’t decrease.

“There were about 100 deer on campus when we started, and there were still about 100 deer [five years later],” said Paul Curtis, a Cornell wildlife specialist.

Fawn and doe numbers slightly declined, but by and large, Cornell’s deer infestation problem hasn’t improved.

Female-Deer
Sterilized does came into estrous, attracting bucks from miles around. Flickr/Noël Zia Lee

In 2013, Cornell opted to use trappers and volunteer bowhunters to cull the herd. It worked, and it’s a lot cheaper, especially because the hunters are volunteers. From 2013 to 2014, Cornell’s deer population dropped from and estimated 105 to 58.

Sometimes – scratch that – most of the time, hunting is the best way to control deer populations.

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Cornell Scientists’ Doe Sterilization Program Accidentally Created “Buck Magnets”