In December 2014, the NIH began a Deer Management Program on the main campus to track, monitor and promote a safe and healthy habitat for the white-tailed deer population through long-term, humane, and socially and biologically acceptable population control methods.
Last year, 24 deer were spayed and we began the process of tracking and monitoring the herd through ear tags and radio collars.
Now that we are beginning year two of the program, a wildlife biologist will return this winter to take new population counts, assess the herd, and spay any new female deer present on campus.
As a reminder, our densely developed and enclosed campus with few remaining open spaces is currently not an ideal habitat for an overpopulated deer population. With an average life span of 10-15 years, the health and wellbeing of the deer are in jeopardy, particularly due to nutritional deprivation.
The NIH does not permit hunting on the campus. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources does not allow relocation of deer. After looking at all options, particularly non-lethal methods, the NIH identified the most effective approach to manage, stabilize and potentially reduce the population. This begins the second of a four year plan, led by trained deer population control experts, with assistance from volunteer NIH veterinary staff, to anesthetize and spay adult females. All local, state and federal requirements will be followed.
The work will continue on weekends at night to minimize disruption to campus activities. Employees should not be alarmed if they see a deer anesthetized. This 10-15 minute, non-lethal solution - less invasive than spaying a cat or dog – was effective last year on campus and many other locales around the country.
Over the long term, the program should reduce, but continue to protect the overall welfare of, the deer population while improving human safety through decreased risks of traffic accidents and less exposure to aggressive and reckless males during mating season.