Binghamton University in Upstate New York is planning to slaughter 90% of the deer in their Nature Preserve, at a cost of $20,000.00 dollars +. As we understand, this is NY taxpayers' dollars. The slaughter was scheduled to take place over the Christmas break (starting December 21, 2011), but on December 23, 2011 a state Supreme Court judge put brakes on the plan ruling that the university must comply with the State Environmental Quality Review Act process in order to do the "culling." While the deer killing is on indefinite hold, BU officials have expressed that they will comply with the ruling.
Julian Shepherd Ph.D., who heads up The Committee of the University Environment, and Dylan Horvath, steward of nature areas at the university, are blaming the deer for eating flowers and for forest regeneration problems. However, their claims are not supported by any scientific evidence. B.U. didn't even do a deer survey or an environmental impact study.
Many forest experts disagree with the general premise of their claims. "Acid rain is more responsible than white-tailed deer for forests not regenerating ... They can kill all the deer, but it will take a lot more than that to fix the forests.", claims Bill Sharpe, a Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences forest hydrologist, "Penn State Expert Blames Forest Problem on Acid Rain, Not Deer", Penn State Live, 5/17/02. In a recent landmark study, "Regional-Scale Assessment of Deer Impacts on Vegetation Within Western Connecticut, USA", Angela C. Rutherford, et al., School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, (Journal of Wildlife Management 74(6):1257-1263. 2010) concluded that deer density is not a leading factor determining variation in vegetation impacts. And a recent study at Ohio State University, "Indirect Effects of a Keystone Herbivore Elevate Local Animal Diversity", Katherine Greenwald, et al., Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology (Journal of Wildlife Management 72(6):1318-1321; 2008) found that the presence of deer is actually helpful to other animal species, and that programs to reduce their populations may be detrimental to a region’s biodiversity. "Culling deer may cascade into affecting plants, salamanders and other creatures in ways we can’t even imagine," said OSU researcher Katherine Greenwald. "Officials need to know more about the forest ecosystem before making decisions about wildlife management." Another study showed that some forest understory-dwelling birds benefit from deer-grazing, and that the presence of deer decreased populations of rodents that preyed on ground birds’ nests.
This deer slaughter will not achieve B.U.'s objectives, and trying to keep deer at unrealistic low levels poses an insurmountable challenge. Culling or hunting deer will trigger compensatory reproduction. The deer population will rebound quickly, and deer from adjacent areas will quickly fill the void, leading to an endless cycle of killing.
The forest ecology in B.U.'s Nature Preserve is no different than the rest of the forest areas in New York State. That said, a nature preserve should remain untouched and allowed to evolve naturally without human intervention. In reviewing the history and mandate of B.U.'s Nature Preserve, it said that, " In order to preserve its natural beauty and intrinsic value it was suggested that hunting, littering, use of motorized or wheeled vehicles, picking of plant life, and harassment of animal life be prohibited throughout the entire area."
If B.U. wants to create a protected environment to grow wildflowers that can't be affected by wildlife, then B.U. should explore creative fencing alternatives, or build an arboretum. If B.U. insists on interfering with the natural processes within the Nature Preserve, then a deer contraception program should be considered. Contrary to what Mr. Horvath believes, there are a number of scientific peer-reviewed studies that document deer contraception effectiveness, reducing deer populations by approximately 40-60%.
The DEC spends millions of dollars annually to artificially propagate the deer population for maximum sustained yield for their 3% hunter constituents. Deer populations stabilize on their own in relation to the available food supply. Culling or hunting will only reduce the deer population temporarily and trigger compensatory rebound, which will increase the deer population the following year. Please refer to the article, "The Paradox of Killing Wildlife to Control Populations" (http://politicswildlife.blogspot.com/2010/10/paradox-of-killing-wildlife-to-control.html). And just an update for Mr. Horvath, there are 20-30,000 coyotes (predators) in New York State, i.e. he said that coyotes were hunted out a century ago.
Please send Binghamton University a strong message to stop the deer slaughter, and not to turn their Nature Preserve into a private hunting and killing preserve.