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Jun 22, 2015 3:55 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Community Discusses Potential Solutions for Deer Controversy

Several tagged female deer, part of a sterilization program in East Hampton village, have died in recent months. FILE PHOTO
Jun 23, 2015 2:22 PM

Controlling the deer population was the topic of discussion at a forum last week at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton, as residents discussed methods of stemming the number of deer and how certain projects are impacting the local fauna.

“They are basically killing the deer, because the sterilization program doesn’t work,” Ilissa Meyer, general manager of the Equine Sport Science Group of East Hampton, said of the controversial Spay-A-Doe program that is being carried out in East Hampton Village.

The village sterilized 115 does in field operations earlier this year. The does were then either tagged or collared. But within three months of the program, many of the tags had already fallen off the does, Ms. Meyer said. It is not clear now which does are, in fact, sterilized—the recent deaths of does in the village has caused speculation that the sterilization program itself is what is causing some does to die. Four with tagged ears have died in the past few weeks.

Concerns similar to Ms. Meyer’s surfaced at the meeting, during which a few professionals spoke about alternatives to sterilization, such as contraception and even vaccines.

Dr. Paul Hollander, who has been a veterinarian for small animals for almost 40 years, said that a sterilization program was performed at Cornell and it did not work. He added that it is extremely expensive, and that there is a new vaccine that can sterilize the deer much more cheaply. The vaccine reduces the ability of the animal to produce hormones, he said, and will last up to four or five years.

Ellen Crain, a part-time resident of Montauk, said that contraception is another option. The procedure to which she referred would not take more than 15 minutes to accomplish for each deer, although the deer would have to be anesthetized. She said that contraception has already proved to significantly reduce the deer population on Fire Island, and that it costs about $260 per deer. She added that, “Contraception doesn’t interfere with pregnancy, so it could still deliver a fine baby.”

A presentation by wildlife photographer and naturalist Dell Cullum’s received the most applause. Mr. Cullum, who has been outspoken against the Spay-A-Doe program, showed a video of many of his photographs of wildlife, and specifically of deer that were just inches away from his camera. The audience cooed at the sight of fawns splashing in the river.

Mr. Cullum argued that the real problem is “the obsession that there is a problem here” with deer. He said that the community is sending a bad message to “our children” and that inhumane treatment is not the right answer. His presentation ended with a slide that read: “Wildlife is life.”

The Village Preservation Society raised $100,000 to fund the Spay-A-Doe program in East Hampton, which was administered by White Buffalo Inc. The village itself donated $30,000 to the program.

Ms. Meyer argued that, if residents are truly upset, they should write letters to the town and village boards. She said, “When you get people to not consult experts and they make decisions, they need to know how you feel.”

Another resident, Carol Saxe, who said that she is a member of the town’s Deer Management Committee, said it seemed more like a “deer cull committee.” Ms. Saxe agreed with Ms. Meyer, saying that letters need to be written demanding the committee be more representative of the makeup of the town.

“They are expanding hunting,” she said, adding that, “The Department of Conservation is not protecting our wildlife and, if they were, we wouldn’t be talking about this today.”

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Oh deer...I guess handing out free condoms is not an option here...sigh.
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Jun 23, 15 12:39 PM