Parks Service Wants to Hunt Fire Island Deer Again

deer eating corn

Fire Island Deer in Contraceptive Program

contraceptive dartThe National Parks Service has come up with a surprisingly illogical new plan for the deer of Fire Island: they want to kill most of them off with sharpshooters, hunters and by capturing and “euthanizing” them. The population of deer has been falling for years, but somehow the Parks Service and New York State have concocted a goal to “reduce negative deer-human interactions” and protect natural and cultural resources.

Locals think it’s all just a political plan to appease hunters that has nothing to do with serving the people of  Fire Island. Most people who live there or visit love their deer visitors. When I’ve visited people get excited to see them in the dunes and eating berries from bushes–despite their habit of eating landscaping. Unless the deer charged into bars wearing anti-gay slogans and stealing the booze, I’d say the culture of Fire Island is pretty much secure. The public has until October 10 to comment on the bizarre plan.

What’s particularly odd about the proposal is that even chronology of the deer saga on the island they’ve had two programs that worked before–telling people not to feed them and Humane Society of the United States’ PZP birth control program.  By the National Parks’ Service’s own account both worked great. Fire Island is where the Humane Society first tested and proved its contraceptive program. The academic study published from the experiment showed that within four years the calving rate fell by 80%. The population density went up slightly, then fell dramatically. Overall the estimates of the deer population went from 500 to 700 at the peak down to about 300-500 now. 

The plan says that deer are hurting native plants and they in particular jeopardize the maritime holly forest of the Sunken Forestone of the most underwhelming natural wonders of the world, which consists mainly of trees short enough to live between dunes. The Parks Service cites the New York Natural Heritage Program. But even that says the bigger threats are the erosion of the whole island and people walking off the boardwalks. The plant is question is American holly (Ilex opaca)

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