More than 8,000 people have signed a petition, launched by the local organization Cayuga Deer, urging Cornell University to not renew its Department of Environmental Conservation permit to trap and kill deer on the university’s property.
Many of the methods of deer population control being proposed for the Cayuga Heights area are inhumane and potentially dangerous, but problems with deer overpopulation make some control, like surgical sterilization, necessary to prevent the many problems associated with deer overpopulation.
Activists with Cayuga Deer are concerned by claims that Cornell’s deer control personnel will potentially use bows and shotguns near homes in Cayuga Heights to euthanize deer. Because these methods do not always kill deer instantaneously, and bows or bullets may be accidentally shot into a residential area, supporters of Cayuga Deer view this treatment as animal cruelty, as well as a threat to public safety.
However, deer overpopulation may pose serious problems for local ecology and road safety. Areas with high deer populations in New York state have seen underbrush destroyed and bird and tree species crowded out. This harms local biodiversity and may lead to the extinction of local plants and animals or the proliferation of invasive species.
Moreover, the 1.6 million yearly deer-vehicle collisions nationwide lead to $4.6 billion in vehicle damage and medical payments and account for tens of thousands of injuries each year. In Tompkins County, 155 dead deer were pulled from the roads in 2012.
Reasonable deer population control could help reduce some vehicle accidents and ecological damage. However, Cornell should minimize deer euthanasia by expanding the surgical sterilization methods it began using in 2007. If the deer must be euthanized, like when rabid or gravely injured, more professionally accepted methods, such as a penetrating captive bolt that shoots into the skull of the animal or a lethal injection with pentobarbital, allow for more humane euthanasia.
A focus on sterilization will be more efficient in controlling future deer population growth than euthanasia by preventing the animals from reproducing in the first place. It will also drive down the need for euthanasia in the future.