STATEN ISLAND — Year four of the Island’s controversial deer vasectomy program is in full swing.
City contractor White Buffalo got back to work on deer vasectomies across the Island in early December and will continue on with its work through January.
The relaunch of the program comes after the first three-year phase of the program, which began in 2016, came to an end last January.
After the first phase of the $4.1 million three-year program ended, the city decided to award White Buffalo another $2.5 million contract for five more years of vasectomies.
When the vasectomy program launched three years ago, White Buffalo’s initial contract was not supposed to exceed $3.3 million over the three-year research study.
But the contract ballooned to nearly $1 million more because the contractor said it kept finding more deer than expected on the Island each year of the program.
HOW THE MONEY WAS SPENT
A cost breakdown of the three-year program first reported by the Advance, showed that just 7.6 percent of the $4.1 million program went toward supplies to sterilize the borough’s bucks and bait to lure them. The rest of the $3.7 million for the program was used to pay senior scientists, wildlife biologists and technicians, and veterinarians charged with capturing and sterilizing the deer for White Buffalo.
Despite skepticism from Island elected officials and local residents about the effectiveness of the program, the city’s Parks Department has reported a 15 percent drop in the borough’s deer population.
So far, the Parks Department said 98 percent of the Island’s male antlered deer were sterilized since the program started, while fawn births have dropped by 77 percent.
“The goal of this contract is to maintain the high level of vasectomized bucks on Staten Island and continue to see the overall population of deer decrease,” said Parks Department spokeswoman Charisse Hill.
Some had asked the city to consider sterilizing female deer instead through a process known as ovariectomies, a procedure that removes females’ ovaries.
ANOTHER APPROACH UNDER CONSIDERATION
Meanwhile, Borough President James Oddo and the state Department of Environmental Conservation have been working on bringing a controlled cull to state-owned property only.
DEC has said they are moving forward with assessing whether to authorize a cull on state-owned property.
However, it does not look like the city plans to be a partner in the effort unless it thinks the vasectomy program isn’t working anymore.
Earlier in December, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he’s seen “consistent progress” in the Island’s vasectomy program and that he would stand by his administration’s current approach “until we think the policy is not working.”
De Blasio also said he had public safety concerns around bringing a cull to the Island because Island residents live in close proximity to where the deer are. He said any weapon that could be used on Island deer could potentially endanger nearby residents too.
The Parks Department said White Buffalo was the only bid it received for the latest vasectomy contract.