Town to Put Deer on the Pill

Alternative to hunting them

Communities in New York’s Westchester County have long used hunters to control deer populations, but now one town, Hastings-on-Hudson, is taking a more progressive approach. The town, together with Tufts University’s Center for Animals and Public Policy, will conduct the first experiments in deer regulation using immunocontraception, or, more simply, birth control.

More than 50 residents have already volunteered to help with the experiment, tracking the animals so they can be trapped and treated.

“It’s brilliant,” said center director Dr. Allen T. Rutberg of the contraceptive vaccine, which will use the animal’s own immune system to prevent it from fertilizing offspring. “It works on a lot of animals, even elephants.”

The small town, which measures only about two square miles, is believed to be home to some 70 to 120 deer.

The program will cost an estimated $30,000 for the first two years, but Hastings mayor Peter Swiderski is confident the issue is pressing enough to warrant the effort. In 2011 there were 16 car collisions reportedly involving deer, and Mayor Swiderski himself contracted lyme disease from a deer tick, as did his entire family.

The town plans to submit the proposal to the State’s Department of Environmental Conservation within a month.

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