Sterilizing does is becoming a more popular option for cutting back deer herd numbers, but is it the right choice?
Ideally, hunting would be the only population control means a state would need to hold deer herd numbers in check. But what happens in states where hunters aren’t killing enough deer to keep populations from spiraling out of the control and resulting in catastrophic property damages?
New York State is currently attempting to answer that question with a new doe sterilization program that has been designed to curb out-of-control deer reproduction figures. Last month, 12 does in the Cayuga Heights area of the state were sterilized, all in an effort to stave off the burgeoning growth of deer herds in and around the small New York village.
Cayuga Heights, which hosts a population of just under 4,000 people according to the 2010 census, has been in the hunting news spotlight numerous times over the past few years for its unorthodox methods of culling growing deer herds. The sterilization plan has the same overall goals as the sale of hunting licenses: to cut down on deer numbers and repopulation potential so that deer-vehicle accidents and garden or crop destruction can be lessened. However, the Cayuga Heights deer culling methods have incited controversy among animal rights activists and taxpayers alike. Early estimates for the plan posited the sterilization cost at about $1,000 per doe – a considerably higher cost than hunting, which actually helps net the state a profit. In reality, the sterilization cost was almost three times as much as was estimated, putting the bill for the 12 sterilized does at $35,808.
Read about a similar measure being taken in Fairfax City, Virginia.
Not that this is the first time Cayuga Heights has ventured into the wilderness to complete sterilizations. In December of 2012, the village sterilized 137 does for a $148,000 price tag. That number averaged out much closer to the original per-deer cost estimate. However, the village’s methods to curb deer reproduction numbers are still exorbitantly expensive, especially since Cayuga Heights has also had to foot the bills for studies and legal consultations regarding its deer culling methods.
The village certainly does have a deer overpopulation problem: according to a Cornell University study, Cayuga Heights plays host to about 225 deer. That’s not a huge number in and of itself, but given the village’s small 1.8-square-mile sprawl, it means that Cayuga Heights has about 125 deer per square mile. It’s no surprise that the village has faced difficulties with deer-related car accidents and crop destruction reports.
Related story: Is Hunting Becoming No More Than Pest Control?
With that said though, Cayuga Heights has ostensibly dug its own grave in regard to deer overpopulation problems. In 1999, all use of bows and firearms was banned within the village limits, leaving hunters unable to help stave off the growing deer populations. Now, outspoken hunters in the area are pushing for a review and revision of the ordinance, claiming that at least allowing bow hunting within Cayuga Heights would be a significantly more effective method for culling oversized deer herds than expensive sterilization efforts. Whether or not the village will even consider overturning its policy on bow hunting remains to be seen. However, it seems as if taxpayers in the village are currently getting a raw deal in regards to deer culling procedures, and hunting might just be the only good answer to the conundrum.