Project seeks deer over population answer
CINCINNATI (Rich Jaffe) - A unique program to try and control an out of control urban deer herd is just wrapping up in Clifton.
It's the first time anything like it has been tried in the state of Ohio and while no one's sure if it's ultimately the answer, they're certainly giving it a serious consideration. A healthy deer population is generally accepted as about 20 deer per square mile. In the largely residential area around Mt. Storm the deer population is over one hundred per square mile. That's been pretty common for parks in that area.
While many communities now rely on bow hunters to knock those numbers down, last year community organizations in Clifton decided to try something else. Forty-four deer running around Clifton are now sporting colorful ear, ID tags. Forty-one of them are does and have also had their ovaries removed. It's part of a national research program to see if sterilizing deer is a viable alternative to shooting them.
Dr. Anthony Denicola's company, White Buffalo Incorporated, works on animal population control projects around the world with everything from sharpshooters to volunteers and vets.
He said, "We've got three studies that have been going at least three years now. We've shown anywhere from 10 to 20 percent population declines annually. Pretty significant considering you're not incurring any human induced mortality."
Ten team members, mostly volunteers like Corrina Delorenzo, invested nearly 100 hours a piece over five nights to help.
She said, "It was very exhausting but thrilling at the same time. Took a little bit to get used to the techniques but I'm honestly kind of sad it's over."
Shot at night with a dart gun, deer were tranquilized, tracked, captured, neutered and then returned unharmed to the wild. Eleven have radio tracking collars. At the Clifton town meeting, residents and the Humane Society of the United States came up with the funding. It had the blessing of ODNR, Cincinnati police and the Cincinnati Parks Department. Robert Rack's wife and another neighbor did the research and contacted Denicola's Research Group.
Rack said it's been a challenge to deal with, "The dramatic range of strongly held feelings, opinions and values when it comes to Bambi. Some people look at these deer and they see food, some see sport killing, some people see sacred that shouldn't be touched. Some people see nature that should be preserved."
While everyone agrees they need a deer solution, Rack said they're cautiously optimistic about, "The science. We don't know, may or may not work but it's worth a try and was the only alternative people could think of here to avoid just shooting them."
The area is basically between Ludlow and I-75.The park area and Lafayette Avenue were prime hunting areas. The amazing thing about the program was that for five nights the team prowled these streets shooting deer from a truck with a rifle and no one called the police.
The research project will continue for between three and five years. Any young female deer that weren't sterilized will be targeted next year. Dr. Denicola said one of the biggest challenges will be to see if outside or immigrant deer come into the herd and negate the changes that are made by the sterilized ones.
Local 12 News let you know what happens.