Cornell University: Stop trapping deer and shooting metal rods into their brains

Petition Closed

Cornell University: Stop trapping deer and shooting metal rods into their brains

This petition had 14,534 supporters
Petition to
Cornell University President David J. Skorton and

Why this petition matters

Started by

It has recently been discovered that Cornell University traps deer and uses “captive-bolt” guns to propel metal rods into their skulls. Officials say they are doing this as part of “deer management” on university-owned lands. Killing wildlife in this manner is widely condemned by veterinarians and humane societies as egregiously cruel, yet we have learned that Cornell has been doing it for two years now, with no indication of stopping, despite widespread public outcry. This petition was started by, a community group founded by three Cornell alumni, two of whom were once admissions officers for the university. We, and many others, are demanding that Cornell end its trapping and bolting of deer, now and in the future. There are many proven ways to peacefully address conflicts with wildlife, and an Ivy League institution of all places should be setting a positive example of creativity, ingenuity, and enlightenment – not engaging in barbarism.

It’s been confirmed that “Clover traps” (collapsible box traps) have been set up on Cornell-owned property at various locations throughout Ithaca, New York. During the month of March, when deer have been baited and trapped, the temperatures have plunged into the single digits on several occasions. This means that deer captured overnight could have spent hours exposed to the freezing cold, unable to seek the warmth of shelter before being slaughtered. Also during March, many does are pregnant, with fawning season taking place between May and June. So the violence is only amplified when nearly-mature fawns suffocate and die in the wombs of their slaughtered mothers.

Once a deer is caught in a clover trap, she often thrashes about wildly in a panic. You can see what this looks like and hear the desperate cries of captured deer in these two videos, here and here. [NOTE: These videos are NOT from Cornell but from other programs that were capturing deer for research purposes]  

When the killers arrive, the deer's thrashing becomes more desperate. With trap and bolt slaughter, the helpless and terrified animal is then pinned to the ground, often by having the box trap collapsed on top of her, as pictured above. Even in highly controlled circumstances, bolt guns are a grisly way to kill an individual. However, with a wild animal who is fiercely struggling for her life, there are so many ways the bolt can veer off its intended placement, instead going through an eye or an ear, at times requiring multiple shots before having its intended impact.

Ohio resident Nan Richardson visited a trap and bolt site in the Cleveland area. At a public meeting, she spoke of her firsthand experience:   

The licensed nuisance control person was very hesitant in allowing me to see what he did. He warned me that this could be emotionally traumatic and said he always took great efforts to keep this far from the public’s view… I mentally tried to prepare myself for what I might see. As I soon discovered, nothing could have prepared me.   

Once we arrived at our destination, a private residence in a suburb of Cleveland, I saw a beautiful doe caught in the clover trap. Deer are wild animals and are not accustomed to human contact, so as we approached her it became obvious that her being trapped was causing significant distress. 

She jumped up and began to cry. She sounded exactly like a human baby. I’ll never forget that sound. She was frantic. Her natural instinct was to flee. She could not, which only compounded her extreme fright and misery. She then began to throw herself against the cage violently. She banged her head against the cage again and again in attempts to escape, all the while screaming. 

 I will never ever forget what I saw next. She flipped over backwards and fell to the ground. It looked as if her eyes had exploded in her head. She had a fatal heart attack. She was literally scared to death. The licensed expert told me this does happen sometimes even before he can finish the job with the captive bolt. I had seen enough and was glad I was spared viewing anymore horror and cruelty.

The experienced, licensed expert then dragged the poor doe to his truck as if he were hauling trash to the curb. At this point I was sick to my stomach and raging at all who were responsible for this cruelty and torment. They use all kinds of excuses to substantiate torturing wildlife and the overseers and officials, such as municipal governments and Division of Wildlife Officers, use sanitized words to disguise the truth and fool the public into believing that this repulsive cruelty is humane and quick.

All I know is this doe was crying out for her life, for mercy, and I could do nothing. She suffered a horrific death despite having escaped the barbaric steel spike driven through her skull. 

In Defense of Animals reports that "the trap-and-bolt method of 'wildlife management' is so cruel that only a handful of U.S. cities have tried it, some of them being forced to stop after activists exposed the shocking reality of how much suffering it causes."  

Yet, this barbarity is now being performed by the staff of Cornell's Department of Natural Resources. When publicly exposed, this Ivy League institution with a world-renowned veterinary college issued a statement describing their trapping and bolting of deer as “non-chemical deer harvesting” and "euthanasia." This misleading language disingenuously attempts to lend an aura of scientific legitimacy, and to disguise the violence of killing healthy young animals by falsely equating it with a compassionate medical procedure motivated by mercy.   

Why is this happening? Because Paul Curtis, Bernd Blossey, and Jay Boulanger of Cornell's Natural Resources Department have collaborated with state wildlife bureau officials (whose salaries are paid for by revenues from hunting licenses and gun taxes) on an aggressive campaign to promote the mass-killing of deer in New York State. Their highly disputed claims, that an overabundance of deer threaten to cause an ecological and public health crisis, have been roundly rejected by numerous national-level scientists, as has thoroughly documented.

To read the full investigative report and to learn more about this issue, visit  

[NOTE: The photo above pictures a deer who was trapped as part of an earlier deer management program conducted by Cornell. This particular deer may not have been killed but the same trapping and restraining techniques are utilized in Cornell's trapping and bolting of deer.]

Petition Closed

This petition had 14,534 supporters

Share this petition