Photo credit: Richard Simon in Blue Heron Park on Staten Island
White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are an important part of New York State's rich ecosystem and are greatly valued by many New Yorkers. However, at high population levels deer can pose significant challenges to human health and safety through deer-vehicle collisions and associations with tick-borne illnesses, and have a tremendously detrimental impact upon both forest biodiversity and tree regeneration. In addition, when overly abundant, deer damage landscape plantings, residential gardens, and urban forests.
Deer populations are increasing across the United States. In fact, there are more deer in North America today than any time in history. Within New York City, populations of white-tailed deer are growing and expanding in the north Bronx and Staten Island. Deer benefit from abundant food and shelter available in those boroughs' parks and green spaces. Absent active management, these deer populations are expected to increase and further exploit available habitat, including potential expansion into other city boroughs.
The challenge for government officials is to find an acceptable balance between the presence of deer in the city and the associated risk to people and their property. People and deer can coexist so long as impacts from deer populations are managed at an acceptable level.
- In New York City, white-tailed deer can currently be found in Pelham Bay and Van Cortlandt Parks in the Bronx and throughout Staten Island green spaces.
- Deer migrated to Staten Island by swimming from New Jersey and to the Bronx by walking from Westchester.
- Male deer are called bucks. Adult bucks grow and shed antlers annually. Bucks are more active in the fall (October – December) because of mating season. This makes them more susceptible to being hit by motor vehicles. Please use extra caution when driving in the fall.
- Female deer are called does. Does give birth to 1-3 fawns in late spring (May – June).
- Deer can swim, run up to 35 miles per hour, and jump over an 8-foot-high fence.
- Deer eat a variety of plants, fruits, and leaves; overgrazing can alter forest composition, allowing invasive species to flourish and threatening the future sustainability of forests.
- All wildlife in New York State falls under the regulatory jurisdiction of the State Department of Environmental Conservation.
- It is illegal to hunt anywhere in New York City.
What Is New York City Doing?
The City has developed an integrated, non-lethal, site-specific management plan that will allow experts to take immediate steps to reduce future impacts of an over-abundant deer population. The five-pronged plan includes:
- Population control study through humane sterilization of male deer
- Traffic safety measures
- Extensive public education
- Natural resource protections
- Impact Monitoring
The City has hired the non-profit White Buffalo, Inc. to conduct the sterilization study, which has been permitted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and will begin in early September. Working at night, a team from White Buffalo, Inc. will be capturing, sterilizing, ear tagging and radio collaring deer across Staten Island. In addition, the team will be monitoring deer to assess populations dynamics like movement and mortality.
In addition, New York City has:
- Conducted an aerial survey of Staten Island green spaces in 2014, establishing a baseline population count of 763 deer over 18.7 square miles.
- Installed mobile warning signs to alert drivers to the possibility of deer on roads in Staten Island, and installing permanent deer crossing signs at 21 strategic locations throughout the borough.
- Monitored deer damage to native and forest restoration plantings across the City.
- Installed protective fencing around new plantings, deer guards around newly planted trees, and other protective measures.
- NYC Parks' Urban Park Rangers host monthly programs on Staten Island focused on deer and living safely with deer in New York City. Learn more.
- Worked with the United States Department of Agriculture on an environmental assessment of deer impacts and deer management options in New York State.
Five Easy Tips for White-tailed Deer Coexistence
- Do not feed white-tailed deer. Feeding increases nuisance behavior, putting both deer and people at risk. It is also illegal.
- Drive with caution, especially at dawn and dusk. Deer are most active in the evening and early morning, and especially during the fall mating season.
- Check for ticks after visiting a park or green space. Humans and dogs may contract tick-borne diseases if bitten by an infected tick. Learn more.
- Leave fawns alone. It is normal for mother does to leave fawns unattended for long periods each day.
- Call 911 to report an injured deer or an immediate threat to public safety or animal welfare.