Deer Management

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Why do those who care for and take care of the Binghamton University Nature Preserve want to conduct a deer cull?
Answer: Deer overpopulation in the University’s Nature Preserve over the past 40 years has had a devastating effect on forest regeneration. Wildflowers and forest understory shrubs have disappeared, and the resulting reduction of food and habitat has adversely affected all other animals in the forest community. Low-nesting and ground-nesting birds, for example, have stopped reproducing in our forests. Because the deer have no natural predators in the Nature Preserve, and because hunting is not allowed, the deer population is currently five times larger than research shows it should be. The goal is NOT to eliminate deer completely, but to reduce the population to a level at which the forest can begin to recover. We want deer to remain an integral component of a healthy, ecologically balanced environment in our natural areas.

Question: Would deer translocation, birth control and hunting be viable alternatives to culling?
Answer: We have researched each of these options thoroughly: Translocation: Survival rates of translocated deer are low (due to capture, transport and new location stress). Translocation involves a much higher cost and effort for essentially the same mortality outcome. In addition, this method is effectively prohibited in New York state because of spreading diseases. And most other areas in the state are already at or above capacity. Birth Control: Birth control has been in the experimental stages for decades and has shown no practical effectiveness in managing wild, free-ranging deer populations. The drugs and chemicals involved are prohibitively expensive, even for partial population reduction, and they are not approved by the FDA. Fertility control has shown marginal effectiveness in isolated, confined and island populations OR when combined with lethal methods. It would not reduce our deer population enough or in time to allow forest regeneration. Hunting Season: Safety is the number one reason against this option. Because it would be hard to control hunter expertise and hunter access, it would be difficult to ensure the safety of students and visitors. Further, research shows it is unlikely that the deer population would be reduced sufficiently during the hunting season.

Question: Is culling safe?
Answer: Yes. Culling will be done quickly and in locations at more than the legal distance from campus and neighboring residences. Access to culling sites will be carefully controlled and policed, and will be conducted during times of least visitation to our natural areas and when the fewest students are on campus. In addition, low-caliber noise suppressed firearms are used.

Question: What happens to culled deer?
Answer: The meat is donated to charity.

Question: How many would be killed?
Answer: We know there are 80-100 deer per square mile on campus. In order to even begin the forest recovery process, deer need to be reduced to 8-10 per square mile.

Question: Won’t the deer population increase again?
Answer: Yes. The population is, and will continue to be, monitored. Deer behavior and lack of good-quality food sources will slow down their rate of population increase. We also expect that the behavior of incoming deer will slow down the damage done to the forest. Culling gives the forest time to begin recovery; we will re-evaluate management options when necessary.  The options would be to conduct culls or use controlled bow hunting to maintain lower deer numbers.  

Question: What qualifications do we have for recommending management of deer?
Answer: Those who have made the initial recommendation are all biologists who take care of the natural areas and the Nature Preserve on campus. Both on-campus and external research data on the effects of deer on forest ecosystems as well as research on management options support the decision. Our steward of natural areas on campus, who is also a wildlife biologist, and other on-campus scientists have monitored the deer population and observed their effect for more than 10 years and 30+ years, respectively.

Last Updated: 2/4/15