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Federal officials to cull up to 180 deer on NY’s Long Island

February 23, 2022 GMT

SMITHTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — Federal wildlife specialists will cull Long Island’s deer population by shooting up to 180 of the animals in New York state parks and other locations this year, authorities said.

The cull is intended to reduce damage to habitats and prevent collisions between deer and motor vehicles.

Culling has been practiced for about 20 years on Long Island. Forty-nine deer were culled there in 2021. But Brian Nearing, a spokesperson for the state’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, told Newsday that staffers have seen increased damage lately.

“Given the wide variety of native plants and grasses present, State Parks present a constant food source for deer,” Nearing told the newspaper. He said fencing hundreds or thousands of acres of parkland “is not an effective mediation measure.”

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Authorities said they donated about 1,300 pounds (590 kilograms) of deer meat, or venison, to local food banks after the cull last year.

Animal advocates planned to protest Wednesday outside Caleb Smith preserve in Smithtown, one of the planned cull sites.

Wildlife rehabilitator John Di Leonardo, who leads the group Long Island Orchestrating for Nature that planned the protest, told Newsday that surviving deer will multiply rapidly, taking advantage of the new food and territory opened by the cull. “If you’re just killing deer year after year, you’re treating the symptom of the problem, not the problem,” he said.

Di Leonardo said he favors deer sterilization or immunocontraception. But Bernd Blossey, a Cornell University professor of natural resources, said regular culling is the only way to reduce Long Island’s deer population short of introducing predators like wolves.