Feed the Deer to Control Overpopulation…Huh?

Deer populations could be controlled by feeding them
Deer populations could be controlled by feeding them, Photo: Fesus Robert, taviphoto/iStock/Thinkstock

With so many brilliant minds on both sides of the deer issue, it would seem only logical that every potential solution has been considered, including sharp shooters, castration, tubal ligation, relocation, etc.

However, there is one concept that has not been considered in the matter—feed the deer for population control.

Let me elaborate.

Mother Nature’s solution for all types of animal management is to encourage their good health, successful breeding and reproduction. In New York, this is accomplished by sending mild winters, goodly amounts of rain and keeping forest fires away. This is generally how she wants things to be, until the point in time where she feels a correction is necessary. Then she sends the bad stuff and certain animal populations fall drastically before the cycle starts again.

So what does this have to do with the overpopulation of deer on the East End? It’s actually quite simple. After the deer population reaches the point of oversaturation, there is immense competition for space and food.

Simply put…there becomes too many deer for the land to support. This will result in a colossal die-off (starvation) and at that point it will take numerous years for the population to recover to the current numbers. Those years will be especially enjoyed by area residents who think we have too many deer.

Where is the evidence of this? Any first-year conservation student will tell you it is 100 percent fact. For instance, did you know that female deer, after the first year, will often deliver twin fawns and sometimes even triplets, based on the availability of food before and during gestation?

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So, as an example, for the next two years, the Town of East Hampton should be spending their money on extensive deer feeding programs and not deer culling programs. Let the deer population grow so large that every yard has at least a small herd. Then in the third year, the Town can cease the feeding program altogether, and watch the death rate soar like a rocket headed for Mars. If it happens to be the same year Mother Nature decides to send a very long, cold and snowy winter, then even more deer will starve to death.

Now there is one thing you should realize about the effects of a significantly reduced deer population on the East End. Deer compete for food with many other types of animals. So if the deer population is drastically reduced, the population of other types of foragers will explode. But I am sure the current deer haters wouldn’t mind tens of thousands of additional rabbits in their yards and gardens.

For the record, each female rabbit can produce 50-60 offspring per year and those female offspring can reproduce at just 6 months of age. If we are going to work to reduce the deer herd, we better also come up with a plan to reduce what will become a significant rabbit population. Perhaps we could distribute leg snares and clamp traps to kill the unwanted rabbits?

Or maybe we could just let Mother Nature take the lead. Are there any other problems we can tackle other than worrying about the number of deer we have in the Hamptons?


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