This newspaper has covered the issues surrounding the National Parks Service White-tailed Deer Management Plan over the past three years that involves the killing of deer. We have interviewed scientists from environmental groups, residents, and the authorities that would be at the switch to carry out the plan. It’s a complicated issue and there are no easy decisions. There are, however, other solutions to curbing the deer population that unfortunately will not be used.
Many of the residents on Fire Island – both seasonal and year round – have come to appreciate having deer as neighbors. However, the Fire Island National Seashore managers say the deer have grown in population to a point where they are severely affecting the ecosystem, and now there are concerns that sensitive vegetation might not be able to regenerate. So clearly, something needs to be done. That’s the reason they issued the announcement that the culling by firearms would begin this month at the William Floyd Estate, which is part of FINS.
Residents and some scientists have had a big problem with that. They say injecting the deer with contraceptives – a method that was used successfully between 1995 and 2009 – is the better alternative. It managed to keep the population down by over 50 percent. But a FINS spokesperson said, in an article that was published in this newspaper last week (“D-Day for deer deferred,” Feb. 21, 2019), that those results were only effective in certain areas.
Some scientists are now saying since the contraception program was abandoned, there are new-and-improved treatments available, which are also longer lasting. So in that case, it begs the question: why wouldn’t FINS try using it? Another important question that sadly cannot be answered is this: had FINS continued using the immunocontraception therapy they abandoned in 2009 with the new-and-supposedly-improved treatment, how might it have affected the population now?
Last week, U.S. First District Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein upheld the temporary restraining order filed by environmental groups to prevent FINS from following through with their plan. This week, she reversed that decision. And so D-Day has now come for the deer. The Animal Welfare Institute, one of the groups that called for the initial restraining order and is still involved in a lawsuit against FINS, released a statement saying they were very disappointed with the judge’s decision. We are, too.