A deer management program that involves performing vasectomies on thousands of Staten Island whitetail bucks is grossly over budget and is only wrapping up year two of a three-year program. The unique program was approved in 2016 to help manage the overabundant white-tailed deer population that roams the New York City borough – a population that has increased by 9,000 percent over the past nine years. Regardless, the program is now more than $300,000 over budget and those in charge haven’t provided data to show whether or not it’s working.
“The count is a very scientific process, we’re setting up cameras and analyzing the camera data and you have to take a lot of different factors into account and verify all of it,” said Parks Department spokeswoman Kelly Krause. “So, it’s not just like literally counting deer, it’s a scientific process and it takes awhile.”
According to the Staten Island Advance, $2.3 million has already been spent during the first year of the program and the entire contract, which was awarded to White Buffalo, “was not supposed to exceed $3.3 million.” However, the contractor requested “an additional $334,770 for year two, which was originally budgeted for $634,650, maxing out the city’s budget” in only two short years. Regardless, Mayor Bill de Blasio is supportive of continuing the program for the third year.
“We’re going to keep evaluating [the vasectomy program],” de Blasio said during a press conference. “In an imperfect situation in one that no one wanted and no one expected to ever get as big as this, we still think it’s the single best long-term solution.”
The vasectomy program was proposed as a way to manage the flourishing population. Overabundant deer have caused property damage and far too many vehicle-deer collisions in the area. Since 2016, the contractor completed vasectomies on roughly 1,154 deer and estimates roughly 1,918 to 2,188 deer make up the current Staten Island population, the Staten Island Advance reports.
“It takes time for something like this to fully succeed,” said de Blasio. “It’s obviously worth the investment, but we need to evaluate and make sure it’s continuing to work, and if we … think it’s not living up to our expectations, we’ll look at other options. But at this moment, based on everything I’ve heard, this is still the best plan we have.”
With roughly 94 percent of the vasectomies completed on the buck population, the program is near its 98 percent goal, which the Parks Department says should be completed by the end of the third year.
“From the beginning we’ve always said that the study’s going to take awhile to take effect on the population,” Krause told the Staten Island Advance. “If you vasectomize deer, it will take awhile for the population to go down, so our focus is sterilizing as many male deer as possible, that’s how we’re viewing success right now.”
Prior to approving the vasectomy program, the borough discussed holding an urban deer cull, which would involve New York Police Department sharpshooters or hunters, but didn’t move forward with the idea. Hunting is illegal across all five boroughs and would be a costly – if not legal – liability to the city. Hence, the reason to move forward with sterilizing Staten Island bucks.