While Shelter Island continues to search for ways to cull the deer herd to prevent tick-borne diseases and car crashes, East Hampton Village has just finished an effort to sterilize deer.
Wildlife biologist Anthony DeNicola, of Connecticut-based White Buffalo, a leading nonprofit in deer management, ran the program for 10 days and 114 does were spayed. “That’s about 60 percent of the females in the herd,” Mr. DeNicola said. “We’ll be back in February for another 20 percent.”
The process uses tranquilizer darts to immobilize the animals. They are then transported to veterinarians in the field for surgery to remove their ovaries in a 20 minute surgery, and then returned to the woods after they’re tagged to indicate they’ve been spayed.
East Hampton Village has $140,000 committed to the program this year — $100,000 coming from the East Hampton Village Preservation Society, $30,000 from Village coffers and $10,000 from an individual contributor, according to Village Administrator Betsy Molinaro.
The cost is about $1,000 per deer if done by professionals, or about $500 when done by trained volunteers, Mr. DeNicola said. The lion’s share of the cost in communities where the sterilization has been successful has been paid by grants from organizations such as the Humane Society and other nonprofits.
White Buffalo has operated in communities across the country, in places as diverse as San Jose, California, near Milwaukee, Wisconsin and in Cayuga Heights, New York. In that upstate New York village, 95 percent of does were sterilized.
Mr. DeNicola has worked on reducing deer herds with nonlethal methods since 1991, including the use of non-fertility drugs. Vaccines producing anti-conception agents in female deer have improved from having to inject a deer every year to every three years. But that still means, since deer live up to 15 years, going out and capturing a single deer and injecting it three or four times at a minimum throughout its life.
“That’s shoveling against the tide,” Mr. DeNicola said. With sterilization “instead of going back to deer over and over for infertility treatments, we’re done and it’s 100 percent effective.”