Cornell University Integrated Deer Research and Management
Increasing interactions between deer and various properties on and around Cornell University lands have resulted in the need to implement and evaluate a deer research and management program to reduce negative impacts. Discussions and actions regarding deer damage management reflect the University's goal to maintain the integrity of Cornell lands, while being cognizant of related neighborhood impacts. The project will be implemented in an effective and cost-efficient manner, for the primary purposes of supporting the research, teaching, and outreach functions of Cornell University.
For this project, Cornell lands have been divided into two zones: a core campus area and outlying areas adjacent to the core campus (see map). The primary objective for the core campus zone (1,103 acres) is to reduce deer damage to unique plant collections or research plots, and minimize safety risks associated with deer. We plan to monitor complaints about deer damage to plants, reported deer-vehicle accidents, and deer abundance. The goal is to reduce deer associated complaints using fertility control. The outlying areas comprise a zone (3,865 acres) that contains agricultural fields, woodlots, and natural areas. Limited hunting has been allowed on most of these properties for decades. The primary objective for these areas is to reduce deer damage to agricultural fields and natural areas through the use of controlled hunting on areas with safe shooting zones that meet state discharge regulations. The focus will be to increase the harvest of female deer and lower the reproductive potential and herd size near campus in areas that can be safely hunted. Close to campus, archery hunting will be the primary approach. Where practical, shotgun hunting will be permitted based on input from the Cornell University Police and land managers.
Deer Fertility Control Study
A deer fertility control program is currently under way in the core campus area. Deer included in this project will be captured in cages or nets that are easily set up on Cornell lands or the properties of cooperating community members. Deer are handled humanely, in accordance with protocols that have been filed with the Cornell Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and following NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Special Licenses Unit procedures. Captured male and female deer will be fitted with numbered ear tags that will allow for individual identification. Some of the mature females will also be fitted with radio-transmitters which will allow for monitoring their movements around the community and documenting home ranges. Captured deer are transported to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine for sterilization surgery.
Photo Surveys and Telemetry
In conjunction with the fertility control program, deer abundance will be ascertained by baiting them into sites monitored with infrared-triggered cameras. Data will be collected on behavior and survival of the treated deer, in addition to the cost of handling deer for this type of population management. Research staff will monitor the deer fitted with radio transmitters regularly throughout the year. A vehicle equipped with antennas, receiver and other field equipment will be seen frequently during the day and night in the community.
We welcome discussions about the research with residents in the surrounding communities. We would be glad to schedule presentations about the project, or deer management in general, for interested community groups. Please contact Cornell’s Office of Community Relations at (607) 255-4666 or firstname.lastname@example.org if interested. Cooperating private landowners have provided access to locations desirable for deer capture or photo surveys. With permission, research staff will dispense bait at the desired site, set up equipment, and continue to bait and monitor the site throughout the trapping season. Community members can help researchers locate deer and determine activity patterns. Important information to record includes the date, time, street address, tag numbers of marked deer observed, and total number of deer in the group. Please report sightings by email at email@example.com.
It's anticipated that this innovative program will provide vital information on the ability to manage deer populations on Cornell lands, and the surrounding residential community, using the integration of fertility inhibition and controlled hunting. Furthermore, the results of this research could prove revolutionary for determining if fertility control is a viable, long-term approach to managing deer or other wildlife populations.
Final Note on Clover Traps
Please keep in mind that deer are hardy animals and can easily withstand the night in a trap, even in cold and snowy conditions. It is not unusual for deer to bleat and struggle in the cage when first captured. However after a few minutes, the deer usually become calm and bed down in the trap. It is important for people and pets to stay away from the cage, or the deer may become excited and sustain an injury struggling inside the trap. If there is an emergency, such as a dog harassing a trapped deer, contact Cornell Police at (607) 255-1111.
2013/14 IDRM Report (available here in late Spring 2014)