HASTINGS-IN-HUDSON, N.Y. -- Hastings Mayor Peter Swiderski outlined the village's five-year plan to administer birth control to the resident deer population beginning in February at a meeting of potential volunteers Wednesday.
The village hopes to limit the population growth of white tail deer that are estimated at somewhere between 100 and 200 or more (in Hastings) and have led more than 100 reported cases of Lyme disease, and 20 car hits and nearly $500,000 in plant and property damage per year.
More than 30 residents, many of who planned to volunteer for preparation, planning and on site assistance with the "hunt", were on hand to ask questions.
Peter Waczek, co-owner of Rivertowns Taxi and a gardener who has seen the effects of deer on plant life in the community, said he hoped the plan would help slow the deer population.
"The effect is devastating on the gardens and the fences are getting higher and higher," Waczkek said. "Lyme ticks are also a problem. I'm willing to help in tracking the population and support the plan."
According to two men in charge of the plan, Tuft University's Dr. Allen Rutberg and Rick Naugle of the Humane Society, female deer will be tranquilized then administered the birth control PZP, short for porcine zona pellucida, a pig protein that poses no risk to people, animals or the environment.
The process has been used in several areas around the United States including Fire Island in Long Island and other more rural settings. Hastings will be the first highly-populated residential community in the nation to experiment with the method.
"This is the first time this kind of deer control has been done in a community like Hastings," Swiderski said. "It's citizen science at it's best. We will begin the work in February an March and continue it next February and March."
Swiderski said the logging of deer sightings by residents over the last year has produced an overview of areas of the village that are most highly populated, including Hillside woods, the Andrus on Hudson senior community campus and the Andrus Children's school on the Hastings-Yonkers border.
"We will concentrate the first part of the project on the Hillside woods area," said Naugle, who will lead the team in spotting, tranquilizing and inoculating the deer. "The dart projectors are not classified as guns by the state, so we can use them in closer areas to population."
The dart projectors have a range of between 5 and 50 yards and are low velocity. Deer are "shot" then tracked if they wander, tagged for identification and then given the contraception that works up to two years. The plan is to reach up to 80 percent of the deer population over the first two years.
The project is being partially funded by the Defense of Animals ($25,000 over two years) and Humane Society contribution of its team led by Naugle. The cost to the village in estimated at $5,000 a year.
Those interested in volunteering for the project may email Mayor Swiderski at firstname.lastname@example.org.