The village of Hastings has been experimenting with an innovative program to control the deer population- contraception. It's now in the 5th year. I received the following update from the Mayor of Hastings, Peter Swiderski and thought readers would find the immunocontraception experiment interesting.
If the Hastings experiment proves to be successful I would ask the Greenburgh Town Board to consider expanding the program to parts of unincorporated Greenburgh. I thank the village of Hastings for always thinking out of the box and for their innovations.
The town won't take action until the Hastings study is complete.
We are in the fifth year of our deer immunocontraception experiment and this is the first year where all inoculated female deer (does) should not be fertile. (At least nine does that were captured and immunized have since died due to hunting, collisions with cars and other accidents, leaving up to 60 immunized does in or near the Village, which is estimated to be around 75% of all adult does.) Anecdotally, there are far, far fewer fawns which you typically see at this time of the summer – I can’t say I have seen a single one, and typically they are all over the place (and often twins and even triplets). Not all does have been inoculated, so there are undoubtedly fawns out there, but certainly way fewer than normal. Anecdotes do not make for real science, so we will be seeking a count shortly. However, common sense would tell you that if a population is not reproducing at replacement rates, the overall numbers will drop. We believe that is happening. This is hardly surprising – immunocontraception has worked wherever it is tried. However, what remains the big variable here is the rate of immigration of new deer into our village from the north and south and whether that will overwhelm the suppressed local numbers. With that said, deer generally do not stray far from their home ranges – only a handful have been spotted significantly outside their Hastings home range. So, while some level of immigration is a given, the question is whether we can keep our local numbers lower over time.
The experiment will continue for at least another year, and data collection and review should be very interesting. Annually, Dr, Rutberg, the Tufts University scientist working with the Humane Society and who is responsible for this experiment, submits a required report to the DEC. It can be found here. The Village produces its own report as well, here.