Stop Vassar College from Killing our Deer on Vassar's Farm and Ecological Preserve!
Twelve years ago, Vassar College, a private, coeducational, elite liberal arts college in Poughkeepsie, NY, began a deer cull program to reduce the population of deer and "protect the health of the ecosystem" of the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve. This slaughter involves bringing sharpshooters to campus every winter break and killing dozens of deer, particularly females and fawns. This action has not been proven effective in reducing the deer population, utilizes illegal silencers to meet city sound ordinances, and is an inhumane approach to a more complex environmental issue.
Many students and community members (represented by the group “Save Our Deer”) who love and appreciate the presence of our deer are dismayed by Vassar's disregard of the wishes of the community as well as the killing of natural wildlife. Vassar justifies the deer cull using dubious scientific evidence that the overabundance of deer hurts plant diversity. Vassar's wealth and influence over Poughkeepsie allow it to ignore the objections of concerned community members without the financial resources to fight against the institution.
There is a multitude of reasons for the changing ecosystem of the Vassar ecological preserve: acid rain, insect damage, disease, forest fragmentation, pollutants, loss of soil fertility, animal browsing, invasive and other competing plant species, parasitic organisms, climatic and weather extremes, and over-development. A rise in the deer population only represents the lack of available land for the deer, caused by the growing city of Poughkeepsie.
As a prestigious and "liberal" institution, Vassar should take the lead in promoting alternative scientific and ethical initiatives. More humane options include the use sterilization and immunocontraceptive techniques such as the PZP vaccine, which have been used effectively in other communities with an overabundance of deer, such as Hastings-on-Hudson, NY. Additionally, methods as simple as fencing in areas where we do not want deer to forage could more efficiently and humanely allow for the regrowth of young trees and saplings.
The Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve is a space curated by human influence - rugby fields and farms dot the landscape. It is naive to believe that deer are responsible for the loss of diversity when humans are the primary intruders on the ecosystem. Vassar College should seek alternative actions that promote not only biodiversity but also preserve the lives of our valuable deer through peaceful coexistence.
- Interim President of Vassar College
- Vassar College Director of Safety and Security
- Vassar College Dean of Strategic Planning and Academic Resources
Marianne H. Begemann
- Associate Professor and Chair of Biology
J. William Strauss
- Vassar College Associate Director of Safety and Security
Stop Vassar College from Killing our Deer on Vassar's Farm and Ecological Preserve! Vassar College should seek alternative actions that promote not only biodiversity but also preserve the lives of our valuable deer through peaceful coexistence. Please end the slaughter and investigate humane methods of population control for our deer and our ecosystem.
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