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National Science Experts Refute Deer Killing Plan

'Misleading', 'deeply flawed', 'lack of a scientific basis', 'insufficient evidence', 'no site-specific data' 'commits a serious oversight', 'contains many inaccurate and unsupported statements'.

These are words used by scientific experts from Harvard, Yale, Tufts and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies to describe Cayuga Heights' draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). Under New York state environmental law, village trustees were required to prepare the DEIS to justify their deer-killing program, which they will vote on after their final EIS is approved (approval is anticipated at their Feb. 14 meeting).

'I was just struck by how shoddy it was,' said 33-year Cayuga Heights resident Ann Druyan, commenting on the DEIS in today's Ithaca Journal. Druyan, an internationally renowned author and science educator, shared the DEIS with four leading national experts in the topic areas discussed in the DEIS, including lyme disease, ecology, public health and veterinary medicine. Druyan says she 'couldn't believe how overwhelmingly negative the response was' to the Village's document.

You can read the entire Ithaca Journal article here:
Below are some highlights of the scientific experts' responses to the DEIS, which they submitted during the public comment period. Their complete statements, along with those of many concerned residents of our community, can be found at this link provided in today's Ithaca Journal article:

Taken together, these scientific evaluations debunk the myths that have been propagated by pro-kill advocates in Cayuga Heights. For example:

1.They spell out the fact that deer do NOT cause lyme disease and that there is no reason to believe that killing deer in Cayuga Heights will reduce the incidence of lyme disease.

2.They caution Cayuga Heights that there is NO DATA to support the claim that deer are destroying the village 'ecosystem', nor reason to believe that the deer are the culprits for degrading an environment which is already so heavily impacted by humans.

3.They point out that the current deer population is unknown, that the number of deer can NOT be determined simply by adding 10% every year since the last time they were measured (in 2006), and that, based on the data that we DO have from Cayuga Heights, the deer population appears to be more stable than has been represented by the mayor and trustees.


1.Read this very informative document, which includes 19 statements from scientific experts and from experts in other fields, such as law, psychology, and city planning, as well as a number of concerned residents of this community:  . Share this important information with people you know, especially those who are misinformed and supporting the deer killing program, as well as those who care about this issue but don't have access to all the facts and/or have not yet gotten involved in trying to stop the killing.

2.Call and/or email the two Cayuga Heights trustees who have not yet made public comments in favor of killing. Ask them how this new scientific information has impacted their approach to addressing the deer issue. Encourage them to consider non-lethal alternatives to resolving conflicts that will achieve proven, lasting results (eg: fencing to protect gardens, roadside reflectors to prevent collisions, etc.), and that will avoid bringing violence and acrimony into our community on an annual basis. Messages can be left at the village offices: (607) 257-1238. You can also contact these two trustees individually: Elizabeth Karns, , 607-255-4572 (Cornell office number) and Stephen Hamiltion, , 607-255-3956 (Cornell office number)

3.Contact local and regional media, including newspapers, radio and TV stations, and urge them to cover the release of this game-changing scientific information. Given that, for over two years now, the media has often published/broadcast misrepresentations of fact put forth by the mayor and trustees of Cayuga Heights, it's incumbent upon them to set the record straight. Thank Rachel Stern of the Ithaca Journal (, 607-274-9221) for introducing this information, and urge her to do a more in-depth follow up story so our community can have access to the full details of these very significant critiques which so thoroughly debunk the core arguments used to justify the proposed deer-killing program.

Highlights from Scientific Experts' Response to Cayuga Heights DEIS
Dr. Tamara Awerbuch, Department of Population and International Health,
Harvard School of Public Health

'After reading your DEIS pertaining to potential outcomes of management
programs to reduce tick populations by killing deer, I was surprised at the
lack of a scientific basis, moreover at the incorrect assumptions about the
relationship between deer and the so called "deer tick"... Deer do not carry
the agent of Lyme disease; the white-footed mice do... there is NO LINEAR
correlation between killing deer and the tick population... there is NO
scientific justification for a deer killing program in your community of
Cayuga Heights, NY. There are certainly alternative ways for reducing the
risk of Lyme disease. As we saw using data from Ipswich Mass. where there
was an attempt to reduce the risk of Lyme disease by killing deer over a
period of about ten years , I was able to show with a mathematical model why
this intervention did not work.'

Richard S. Ostfeld, PhD, Senior Scientist, The Cary Institute of Ecology,
Author of Lyme Disease: The Ecology of a Complex System

(2010, Oxford University Press)

'The DElS contains many inaccurate and unsupported statements about
relationships between deer, blacklegged ticks (incorrectly called 'deer
Ticks'), and Lyme disease. For example, page 2-10 incorrectly states that
linear correlations exist between deer and tick-borne disease. A
comprehensive review of the scientific literature on the relationship
between numbers of deer and numbers of ticks reveals that the majority of
studies find no statistical correlation at all...

'(1) deer do not infect ticks with Lyme bacteria, and actually reduce the
infection prevalence in tick populations; (2) adult black-legged ticks feed
on at least 27 different species of mammals and are not specialists on
white-tailed deer; (3) when deer populations are killed, ticks crowd onto
the remaining deer, resulting in similar total numbers of tick meals; and
(4) even when deer affect the number of eggs laid by adult ticks and
resulting abundance of larvae, numbers of larvae do not predict numbers of
nymphs. (nymphs are responsible for transmitting Lyme disease to people)
' the extent that the justification is based on the notion that reduced
Lyme disease incidence will result, the document is deeply flawed.'

Allen T. Rutberg, Ph.D., Assistant Director, Center for Animals and Public Policy,

Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University

'In building a case for taking action, the DEIS makes clear that it is the
impacts of the deer, rather than their numbers, that should shape management
actions. However, the objectives of the proposed management effort are
expressed only in terms of deer numbers... the Village appears to have no
information at all on deer impacts on ornamental plantings or on
biodiversity that are specific to the Village itself... although the DEIS
waves the Lyme disease flag, it presents no site-specific data related to
Lyme disease incidence or risk...

'Because there has been no population assessment for four years, there
remains much uncertainty about the number of deer present... Extrapolation
of wildlife population growth rates into the future is purely speculative,
and the further into the future one extrapolates, the more speculative it
is. In Cayuga Heights, where deer population estimates apparently were
stable between 2002 and 2006, there is certainly no sound basis postulate a
10% increase over the four years that followed.

' a trained ecologist who values wildlife as wildlife, I find myself
extremely disturbed by the proposal to capture and sterilize a subpopulation
of wild deer and exterminate the rest... I do not see much of a future for
the coexistence of people and wildlife if even as progressive a community as
Cayuga Heights cannot tolerate wildlife within its boundaries. I strongly
recommend that the Trustees take a harder look at the proposed management
plan, better define their objectives to meet the community's legitimate
concerns with deer, and further consider less invasive means for managing
the Village's conflict with deer.'

Oswald J. Schmitz, PhD, Oastler Professor of Population & Community Ecology,

School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University
'I have published 6 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters dealing with
white-tailed deer ecology and population management. I have looked at all of
the documents provided at the website for the draft environmental impact
statement (DEIS)...

'lowering deer densities will not by itself lessen deer impacts on habitat
and vegetation. Furthermore, the DEIS never provides criteria for
quantifying and assessing damage levels that are acceptable or unacceptable.
Hence, there are no a priori criteria to judge success of management aimed
at lessening 'damage'.

'...the document itself states that deer population [sizes] are difficult to
ascertain accurately due to daily and seasonal movements (page 2-4). Thus,
there is no evidence provided that accurate estimates of deer will be
obtainable to judge the success of the management...

'The claim that the deer population is still growing prodigiously (according
to the letter) means there is incomplete understanding about the population
dynamics on this landscape. One possibility is that deer are moving
seasonally into and out of the VCH from the surrounding landscape, are
highly abundant seasonally, but are not resident within the VCH...

'Because culled deer could be rapidly replaced by deer from the landscape
surrounding VCH, there is a likelihood that even a 5 year time horizon will
be insufficient to reach a target population size. It may never be reached
with an open population and culling efforts focused only on a small part of
the greater landscape...

'In summary, there is insufficient evidence provided in the documentation to
show that the management effort will achieve its stated objective deer
population size of 15 per square mile within VCH. Evidence to support the
assertion that a deer population size reduction will lessen impacts on
ecosystems (habitat and vegetation) within VCH is also insufficient.

Furthermore, the DEIS needs to consider the conflating effects of human land
use as a driver of deer movements and population growth on this landscape.
That is, deer populations may be the consequence of human impacts on the
landscape rather than a cause of impacts to humans.'


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Robin J. Yager, Director
Network Partners for Animals*


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