Deer Project: Year 2
The Clifton deer sterilization project ended its second year of field operations on January 19th with ten new does sterilized, bringing our total to 51, and a bunch of soggy volunteers.
Three nights of operations were originally scheduled for early December but had to be postponed to mid-January because a bumper crop of acorns—deer’s favorite food—reduced the draw of the corn baited sites where darters planned to capture remaining untagged does. A fourth night was added when rain twice forced early termination of activities (unconscious deer are at higher risk of hypothermia when they get wet). Mother Nature rules!
A second year field camera population survey is now underway and will soon provide the first empirical data on migration patterns and population numbers and characteristics. One thing we already know is that 41 sterilized does this year did not add new fawns to the population. We also know that all of last year’s tagged does have been seen over the last year in locations close to where they were first darted allowing cautious optimism that the premise of the program and the hypothesis of the study—that does tend to stay in one area, could prove to be true. Close study of the camera photos will also help determine how many new does might have moved into the area.
In addition to the local news coverage you might have seen, the Discovery Channel was here this year filming and interviewing for a national program. Media interest is a good news/bad news situation. While we’re glad and even eager to share what we’re doing and learning, additional observers add more moving parts to an already intense and complex operation. Fortunately, all reporters have been understanding and cooperative for which we sincerely thank them.
Costs of operations this year were around $20,000, about half of last year’s. New volunteer veterinarian surgeons were trained, as was a capture specialist, providing progress toward the goal of developing local expertise that might one day take over the jobs now performed by consultants and greatly reduce ongoing program costs. In the meantime, we are very grateful to the Animal Welfare Institute, The Kenneth A. Scott Charitable Trust, a KeyBank Trust, our friend Karyn who gave up her house for a week to the out of town consultants, and to our friends and neighbors whose donations made this year’s work possible.
Finally, observations from neighbors are still valuable. Reports of tagged deer seen outside the study area (bounded by Clifton Ave, I-75, and Ludlow Ave.) are particularly important. Sightings of tagged deer inside the study area, especially of the newly sterilized does–#42 through #52, help us monitor the health and condition of our sterilized animals. And reports of untagged does within the area will help us locate the remaining unsterilized does next year (though bucks are now dropping their antlers making them and young antlerless bucks hard to distinguish from does). Sightings can be reported on the cliftondeer.org website at “report tagged deer.”
It is a pretty good bet that any time you see Doe #24, aged 4.5 years, Doe #23, aged 3.5 years, isn’t far behind. The twosome was spayed together in December 2015 and their bond remains strong to this day. Photo credit: Mark Easterling
Clifton Deer Round Two Coming Soon!
It’s Fall, a time of crisp cool air, leaves turning colors, bringing in the porch furniture, and fencing off the small trees to protect them from rambunctious rutting bucks! To folks working on the Clifton deer project, it means gearing up for the second round of deer sterilizations.
Soon volunteers will be leafleting property owners inside the study area (bordered by Clifton Ave, Ludlow, and I-75), setting up and tending bait stations, readying the field surgical facility, and, of course, asking for donations!
This Fall (2016), we hope to treat last year’s female fawns, the does missed last year, and any new immigrants, with a goal of reaching at least 95% of all does in the study area. Teams of wildlife biologists, veterinarians, and volunteers will again work long nights, hoping this year to finish in just three days. Once again, The Humane Society of the United States will be participating in our field operations.
Field operations will be followed by a two week field camera population survey. Close examination of literally thousands of pictures from strategically located cameras will enable our consulting wildlife biologist to estimate with high reliability how many deer are in the study area and, most importantly, how many have immigrated into it over the past year. Thus, the project will have its first empirical data to begin to answer the all-important question of how effective fertility control can be in managing deer populations in open settings like ours. Fingers and toes are crossed!
Again, the capture process will occur at night when deer are active and humans are less so. Like last year, all operations will be coordinated closely with the Cincinnati police. Flyers will be left at houses within the study area providing the dates of the operations and names and phone numbers, including CPD’s, for residents with questions or concerns that might arise before or during the sterilization operations.
Last year went very smoothly and we anticipate this year will also. As previously reported, last year’s field observations, confirmed by the camera survey, showed almost twice as many deer as estimated based on the Parks aerial infrared surveys, making this second year more expensive than originally planned – although our costs are still about 25% lower than last year’s. Right now, the project needs about $15,000 more to meet its Year 2 budget. Grant applications are pending with three foundations, but individual donations remain an important source of our funding.
Thanks to a generous $5,000 challenge grant from The Animal Welfare Institute, now is the perfect time to make your donation! Best for the project (since with no credit card processing fees, 100% goes to the budget) are checks made out to CliftonDeer.org and sent c/o Laurie Briggs, Treasurer at 724 Lafayette Ave.,
Cincinnati, OH 45220. Perhaps an easier way is to donate through our website at
http://cliftondeer.org/donations/. Every dollar you contribute is tax deductible and
goes directly to pay for our out of town wildlife biologist and veterinarian team and
for direct expenses, like corn for bait stations. There are also other “painless” ways to contribute described on that donations page, such as designating CliftonDeer.org as your charity of choice with Kroger.
The support of our friends and neighbors has been and continues to be much appreciated.
If you aren’t following us on Facebook, we invite you to do so at https://www.facebook.com/CliftonDeer.org/
The Team at CliftonDeer.org
The Clifton deer fertility control pilot program is a citizen response to the Cincinnati Parks’ invitation to collaborate on a non-lethal alternative to bow-hunting for reducing overabundant herds in 3 Clifton Neighborhood parks. Operating under a permit granted in 2015 by the Wildlife Division of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the program involves a three to five year study of deer migration patterns and the efficacy of sterilization for deer population management.
CliftonDeer.org, is a local 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization formed to sponsor, assist, and provide funding for the program. It builds community support – financial and otherwise – to create an infrastructure of expertise and funding needed to complete the study and to secure the viability of the program on an ongoing basis.
First Year Results:
In December of 2015, project consultant Dr. Anthony DeNicola of White Buffalo, Inc. led a team of wildlife biologists, veterinarians, and volunteers (including U.C. students, Cliftonites, and U.S. Humane Society personnel) through six nights of field operations in which 41 does were sterilized and tagged and 3 incidental male fawns were tagged and released. Detailed results of that effort are reported at 2015 Field Operations Report on the project’s website, www.cliftondeer.org.
Two important findings resulted from last Fall’s work. First, field observations and a post-operations camera survey revealed that the deer population in the study area (bounded by Ludlow Ave., Clifton Ave., and I-75) was much larger than estimated based on the Parks’ aerial infrared population counts—roughly 100 instead of 60. Faced with unexpectedly large numbers, Dr. DeNicola focused his efforts on the mature does who would be likely to reproduce this Spring and planned to target the female fawns in 2016. Second, despite the unexpectedly large deer population, Dr. DeNicola believes that his team sterilized approximately 86% of the adult doe population within the study area, and that this should be enough to stop herd growth and may begin reductions.
This Fall Dr. DeNicola plans to capture and sterilize the few adult does missed last year, new immigrant does, and newly matured female fawns in the study area. He and his team will also devote extra time to training a local darter and a local veterinarian with the goal that they can eventually carry on the program with less reliance on expensive outside involvement. Finally, he will conduct a 2-week post-operations field camera population survey.
The dates of field operations have not yet been set, but will most likely occur in December.
With the discovery of nearly twice as many deer as originally estimated from the Parks’ surveys, and the need for more accurate counts, costs of operations this year, while 25% lower than last year, are expected to be higher than originally projected. Funds are being requested from two national and one local foundation. If successful, these grants will cover at least 60% to 80% of this year’s operating expenses, reducing significantly the amount of fundraising that will be required. We should know the status of those grant requests within weeks. As promised last year, no funds will be requested from CTM.
In the meantime, we invite the community to:
Written by Beth Whelan, for CliftonDeer.Org
CliftonDeer.Org is pleased to report that we have met our $40,000 threshold funding goal and will be launching the program on schedule very soon. A huge thank you to CTM for a matching challenge grant of $2,500 that helped stimulate donations from Clifton residents, and for the suggestion to invite participation by other Clifton organizations, which resulted in a generous grant from the Clifton Community Fund. Our intrepid UC student volunteers recently distributed flyers to all houses within the study area informing residents of what they can expect. If you are in the area bounded by Clifton Ave., Ludlow Ave. and I-75 and have not received one of these flyers, please contact us so we can get one to you.
We’re now focused on establishing bait stations, cleaning the building that will be used as a field surgical center, and preparing volunteers to transport anesthetized deer the nights of the program operations. Finally, we are continuing to look for ways to reduce costs, cover unexpected expenses and put funds toward next year’s costs which are expected to be much smaller than this year’s. One way you can help is to do your Christmas shopping at Ten Thousand Villages in O’Bryonville on November 29th, the Sunday after Thanksgiving. CliftonDeer.org will receive 15% of the value of all purchases you make that day if you tell the cashier at checkout that you’re shopping to support CliftonDeer.org. Another is to donate Marriott Rewards points to defer costs for our out of town team. A third is to enroll in Kroger’s Community Rewards Program and select CliftonDeer.org as your charity of choice. If you can help in any of those ways, please contact us through our web site for details.
Thanks again to CTM and our donors and volunteers, especially our bait station volunteers, for your help and support!
This coming Monday, 9/14/15, Clifton Town Meeting will be evaluating a proposed one time donation of $5,000 to the Clifton Deer Fertility Control Pilot Program. Because this is a relatively large unbudgeted expense, we wanted to provide the community with some background information and invite residents to attend our 9/14/15 Monthly Board Meeting at 7 pm at the Clifton Recreation Center. The agenda will include this and other topics such as formation of a new CTM committee to respond to the CPS decision regarding Magnet School enrollment and an update on resolving concerns related to noise from the air conditioning units at Good Samaritan Hospital. If you are unable to attend our meeting, please consider sending your comments to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We recognize that not everyone will be able to speak on Sept 14 and some may not be able to attend.
Events Leading To This Funding Request
Last fall, the Cincinnati Park Board concluded that, to protect the health of the forests, they needed to reduce the population of deer in three of Clifton’s Parks: Mt. Storm, Rawson Woods, and Edgewood Preserve. At the August and the October CTM Board Meetings, the Park Board proposed starting a program to use certified bow hunters to “cull” the deer herds in the Clifton Parks in the fall of 2014.
Although some residents felt they should accept the Park Board’s opinion that this was their best option, many other residents protested, collected petitions and in October eventually persuaded the Park Board to cancel the bow hunting plans for 2014. The Park Board, however, said that there still was a need to control the deer. They said they could support a non-lethal alternative approach under these circumstances:
1. The non-lethal deer management program would need to be a research project approved by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR)
2. CTM would need to vote in favor of the research project proposal so that the Parks would have some evidence of Clifton community support.
3. The project would need to be privately funded.
4. All city, state, and federal approvals and permits would need to be complete by June 15, 2015.
Two alternative approaches were presented to CTM: a sterilization program and a contraception program. CTM narrowly voted in favor of the sterilization program on 2/2/2015. Here is a link to their website: http://cliftondeer.org/donations/. At the time of this vote, we did NOT expect to provide any funding or resources for the project. We were only stating a preference at the request of the Park Board so that they could request ODNR approval for one and only one approach.
On 5/11/2015, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources issued a permit for the program. The Clifton Deer Project started fundraising immediately but they apparently underestimated the challenge of raising $40,000 prior to starting the program in November. Most of the cost is in the first year ($40,000 versus $5,000 or less in subsequent years) because of the experience of their contractor, White Buffalo, indicating that the most effective approach may be to sterilize 95% of the does in the first year of the program. This is actually the research goal that they presented to ODNR: to prove that a program that sterilizes 95% of the does in the first year will effectively reduce deer population in a park system as is found in Clifton that is partially isolated from surrounding forests. For this $40,000 goal, the Clifton Deer Project has raised over $12,000 so far and just received a $20,000 grant from the Humane Society.
Although the Project is still fundraising, this leaves them about $9,000 short of the funding they need to start this program in November. Due to this unexpected shortfall, they are asking CTM to provide a $5,000 matching grant. If they can then get others to donate a matching $5,000, they will have enough money to pay White Buffalo to sterilize most of the does this year.
Arguments For and Against the Funding
Arguments for the funding
1. The Clifton Deer Project is the only option available this fall/winter to get deer population under control. The number of does in these parks grew from 30 to 40 just since last fall. There is not enough time to switch to bow hunting or to start a new process to gain ODNR approval for the other major non-lethal option of contraception. If you believe the Park Board, getting the deer population under control benefits the ecology of the parks. Also, it reduces collisions between automobiles and deer, reduces the risk of Lyme diseases, and reduces damage to household gardens.
2. The Project is innovative. If successful, it could lead to an ODNR approved option for every neighborhood in Ohio to address deer population issues without hunting. Maryland became the first state to approve this wildlife management technique after a similar study by the same contractor who would lead the work in Clifton, and, if Ohio follows Maryland, non-lethal deer management options could spread.
3. The Humane Society sponsorship is good PR for Clifton. This huge organization is featuring this Clifton project in their national campaign to celebrate their 60th Anniversary.
4. Animals do feel pain. If we can address ecological needs with less pain and suffering, why not do so?
5. The project is close to raising what it needs, but the November deadline is approaching. With CTM’s contribution and additional fundraising by the Project, they are likely to succeed.
6. This project is relatively affordable for CTM. We have some annual expenses ranging from $1,000 to $6,000. A $5,000 one-time expense is relatively affordable. Also, CTM’s $80,000 cash balance is much more than most community councils, and there are many who feel we should be looking for opportunities to use this money on worthy projects.
7. If this program is NOT funded for 2015, costs are likely to increase along with damage to the ecology in the parks by the time we get to 2016. The population of does grew from 30 to 40 in just one year from 2014 to 2015. This caused the budget for the first year to grow from $30,000 to $40,000. This would be likely to increase further if the Deer Project can’t raise enough funds to start the program in 2015.
Arguments against the funding
1. When we approved this program in February, we were not told we might be asked to provide any funding. The Clifton Deer Project may not have anticipated the challenges of fundraising, but this is still an unpleasant, unexpected outcome for CTM.
2. What is the “will of the people”? This is a tough question to answer because many Clifton are not aware of all the plusses and minuses of this issue. Also, it may be impossible to get majority support for ANY one option because at all the CTM meetings involving this topic some people were advocated bow hunting, others advocated contraception, and a third group advocated this sterilization project. Everyone was passionate and everyone disagreed. Another complication is that one could argue that people living near these parks are more directly affected by the Project and should somehow have more say.
3. Will costs after year 1 exceed current projections? The Clifton Deer Project expects to use sources other than CTM for all funds in years 2-5. They project annual costs in years 2-5 because this study aims to complete 95% of the sterilizations in year 1. But this IS a research project and nothing is certain.
4. Also, although this contractor has had success in similar projects elsewhere, given that it is a research project, there is no guarantee that it will effectively reduce the deer population.