HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – The deer in Hastings-on-Hudson may be getting government-issued contraception in 2014. That's when officials hope to begin shooting them with tranquilizing darts and vaccinating them with birth control.
Since 2010, the village has been considering methods to control the ever-growing deer population, which wreaks havoc on foliage, increases the risk of Lyme disease and leads to dangerous car vs. deer collisions.
Village officials are working with Tufts University's Allen Rutberg, director of the Center for Animals and Public Policy at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, to come up with a plan.
Deer birth control involves a vaccine called PZP, short for porcine zona pellucida, a pig protein that poses no risk to people, animals or the environment, Rutberg said.
The deer is shot via dart gun to tranquilize it before the vaccine can be injected. The Environmental Protection Agency requires that the deer be tagged so that it can be identified as having been treated. Another tag will state that the meat of the animal should not be consumed by humans.
The contraceptive plan has been used before in places like Fire Island. It is expected to be more effective and less controversial than culling by gun and bow hunting, Hastings Mayor Peter Swiderski said Thursday.
Hastings resident and avid hunter Paul Robibero said he prefers that hunters do the culling at no cost to the community.
"Birth control methods cost big money and it only works for a couple of years and then they re-dart the does again," Robibero said. "The Long Island programs estimate the cost at $300 per deer. Another problem is that now the deer will love longer, which will cause many older deer to die slow deaths due to starvation and auto accidents."
Rutberg said the cost of darting can vary and cost up to $500 per deer.
"We could dart a deer an hour at Fire Island, which was very cheap," Rutberg said. "At other sites, it might be 12 hours or more per deer. The easier it is to locate and dart deer, the less costly the project."
The cost of the initial doses, which are effective for three years, would be significant, with the village relying on trained experts to administer the vaccinations, Swiderski has said. The cost would then taper off after the first few years, he said.
"The annual cost after the fourth year should not exceed $5,000, which is nothing for the village," Swiderski said.