STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – Staten Island has a deer problem. There’s no arguing it. And it hasn’t gone away.
So now people are taking the law into their own hands and culling the herd themselves.
It’s the wrong approach. Deadly wrong. But it shows the depth of the problem. And it shows how government has failed to do the job when it comes to our deer population.
Authorities have said that there have been eight deer killed on the Island in the last three years, even though hunting is illegal in the five boroughs. But the Advance recently reported that dozens of illegal deer hunting incidents have been investigated here. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has gotten 27 tips on poaching since January 2014.
People are using guns or bows and arrows to take the deer down, often in public parkland. Tree stands and bait have been found. Serious stuff. Carcasses have been found with trophy antlers and heads removed. There have been reports of gunshots ringing out late at night and in the early morning hours. People have been seen going into the woods wearing camouflage and bearing weapons.
But the DEC has just two agents assigned to Staten Island. There used to be three. Staffing changes is the reason the agency gives for the disparity. So we have a deer population problem and a deer poaching problem, but we have less help for it from the state than we used to.
Carcasses have been discovered in Conference House Park and in Silver Lake Cemetery. They’ve been found in New Springville and Travis. In the Greenbelt and on Lighthouse Hill. Dumped by the side of the road. Dumped near someone’s home in Tottenville.
In all that time, just one poacher has been brought to justice on Staten Island.
We’re in a bit of a holding pattern when it comes to deer. We have this deer vasectomy program going on right now. We don’t know yet how effective that will be, so we have to give it time. And now we’ve got the problem of deer poaching.
The poaching problem is deadly serious. Armed people should not be wandering around the woods in populated areas looking for deer. It’s just ripe for tragedy. As was letting the deer population here explode without any decent restraint in the first place. It was like we were waiting for a someone to be injured in a car-deer collision before doing something. Thankfully it didn’t come to that.
But the city and state haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory when it comes to addressing the problem.
We had to practically get on our hands and knees before the city Department of Transportation would even put deer warning signs up on our roadways. And while the vasectomy program is at least an effort at control, there are still plenty of experts who contend that the city should have looked to sterilize the female population and not the male. The proof will be in the pudding.
And who can forget the city depositing an errant deer found in Brooklyn here on Staten Island? Or the DEC’s dumping of deer carcasses in the Mount Loretto Unique Area? And now we have one fewer DEC agent assigned here. Are we waiting for someone to be harmed by an errant bullet before stepping up enforcement?
Other areas of the state permit hunting during certain times of the year as a way to control the deer population. We’re not allowed to do that here. But in other areas, federal government sharpshooters have conducted controlled hunts, including at Civil War battlefields in Maryland.
There would probably be too much of an outcry for it to happen here, but it’s an option. It’s better than letting folks take matters into their own hands and put the rest of us at risk.