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Cornell gives deer tubal ligations, everything goes wrong

Cornell gives deer tubal ligations, everything goes wrong

Welcome to my world, people.

We previously wrote about the deer sterilization program run by the Village of Cayuga Heights, NY, which borders the Cornell University campus and has large deer and faculty populations.

After years of bitter debate, Cayuga Heights decided that the deer population would be controlled through sterilization at enormous expense:

The Cayuga Heights deer control was mostly a failure because, you know, deer move around, so sterilizing deer in Cayuga Heights didn’t prevent new deer from coming into the area.  And so on.

As far as I know, no plans were made to control the faculty population.

I was not aware that Cornell had its own sterilization program.  I was aware that deer are all over campus.

The Cornell sterilization program combined on-campus sterilization with off-campus/regional hunting.

What possibly could go wrong? As the Washington Post reports (via Ithaca Voice), just about everything, Trying to limit the number of deer, with surprising results:

A few years ago, the central campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., was facing a problem familiar to the Washington area. An infestation of white-tailed deer had pushed the community to the limits of its tolerance. Without natural predators, the deer reproduced until their numbers were limited only by the availability of food….

Typically, a deer boom is dealt with through hunting. Often, sharpshooting riflemen or archers are brought in to bait the animals into zones where shots can safely be taken. Cornell’s administrators took a different approach: They chose to experiment with sterilizing many of the wild deer on campus while allowing periodic hunting on nearby land — and the result was something that nobody anticipated.

Let’s stop right there.

Basically, if you were a deer on campus, you got so much free birth control it would make Sandra Fluke jealous; if you were a deer off campus, you got served for dinner.

WaPo continues:

The method of contraception chosen by Cornell was tubal ligation, in which a doe’s fallopian tubes are either blocked or severed. This prevents egg cells from reaching the uterus. Unlike chemical forms of birth control, tubal ligation is typically permanent and avoids the expense of capturing the same deer each year to maintain their infertility. At a cost of roughly $1,200 per deer, 77 does were captured and sterilized though tubal ligation. (Without the help of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, the costs would have been higher.)

No, this is not The Onion. This is my world. Deer get tubal ligations at a cost of $1200 per pop, and I can’t even get good coffee in the faculty lounge.

Wapo goes on, result was fewer does, but more bucks looking for does:

… Initially, the results looked promising: The birth rate went down. Yet the total number of deer remained steady over five years. Something strange was going on.

“Sterilization definitely did decrease fawn numbers, and doe numbers also declined,” Curtis said. “However, these population reductions were offset by increasing buck numbers. There were about 100 deer on campus when we started, and there were still about 100 deer [five years later].”

Something was attracting an abnormal number of mature bucks. Cornell’s biologists realized that the reproductive cycle of the ligated does was to blame.

Under normal conditions, all female whitetails go into heat within several weeks of each other and become pregnant at around the same time. This annual event is called the rut. However, if a doe is not impregnated during the rut, it will enter heat again the following month and again the month after that. Because the ligated does were unable to become pregnant, they continued to produce chemical signals of readiness to reproduce — signals that can attract bucks from miles away.


Cornell found a quick solution. The one that every single Legal Insurrection reader would have suggested at the get-go, without any cost:

After examining Curtis’s data, Cornell’s administration rethought its nonviolent approach to deer population control. The tubal ligation program was halted, replaced by a program of nuisance deer removal using a combination of professional trapping and hunting by volunteer archers.

“In winter 2013, our camera survey indicated there were 100 to 105 deer on campus. After the nuisance deer removal in 2014, the camera estimate was about 58 deer remaining on campus,” Curtis said.

“Because the bow hunters are volunteers, this program is essentially cost-neutral,” Blossey said.

But remember, this is the Ivy League. So we’re always looking for complicated, expensive replacements for effective, lost cost solutions:

Cornell has begun experiments with ovary removal in deer, but Curtis’s team has already had a surprise.

“Three of the 77 tubal ligation deer gave birth to fawns,” Curtis said. “These three deer were recaptured and later were given ovariectomies. All three had ovarian anomalies, and at least one experienced tissue regrowth post-surgery.”

Even after the surgical removal of their ovaries, one of the three deer became pregnant again. It is not clear how this was possible. One supposition is that some ovarian tissue may have escaped the scalpel and regrown into a functioning ovary.

Stop. STOP.

Just stop.



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In southwest Virginia, ours end up on the dinner table, or is canned and given to Hunters For the Hungry food bank.

How is it that half the country is insane?

As the math guy said in “Jurassic Park”…

“Life will find a way…”

Apparently, so will stupid…

JimMtnViewCaUSA | October 15, 2014 at 3:31 pm

“As far as I know, no plans were made to control the faculty population.”

Clearly, *this* was the key mistake.

I heard about this program (which is indeed as stupid as mentioned, and the results are hilarious except for taxpayers), however I didn’t realize they were doing tubal ligation. It seems like that would be more trouble than sterilization the male deer.

Bullets and arrows are of course the easiest method. And then you can have yummy deer chili!

    Immolate in reply to Lea. | October 15, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Except that one fertile male can inseminate many fertile females.

      I guess that makes sense, kind of, but if it’s an easier procedure it seems like they could have gotten more bang for their buck (or bucks 🙂

      Not as much sense as a bullet.

Henry Hawkins | October 15, 2014 at 3:45 pm

LOL. Reads like a Mark Twain parody takedown of elitists.

Of course, Cornell University is the only university in the world to ever suffer a deer problem. No point in asking how others solved it.

On a more serious note, does the Cornell faculty plan to enact and enforce policies regulating deer sex? I’ve seen deer go at it, and it sure looked like rape to me.

Midwest Rhino | October 15, 2014 at 3:45 pm

oh deer … the bucks are raping the females on campus, and the response is to remove ovaries from the females? Is that really nonviolent? Were the feminists consulted on that?

    cazinger in reply to Midwest Rhino. | October 15, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Administrators are considering instituting a new educational seminar at the beginning of each academic year for incoming bucks … “Doe means NO”.

ALL deer living near human populations need to be annihilated. Every last one of them. Lovely as they are, deer are vermin, carrying one of the most devastating human diseases, the brain-destroying Lyme disease. Out here in CA nobody can let their kids go off-trail in any of the local parks without risk of them becoming debilitated for life, and the deer population explosion is even more extreme in the east.

The continental deer population is now several times what it was when Europeans first arrived here. With the absence of predators deer are thriving everywhere. There is absolutely no need for this deer explosion to extend into populated areas. Let them have the back country. That this vermin is allowed to endanger everybody with no need whatsoever is pure eco-madness.

How many Cornell students are infected every year by deer ticks? If the deer are all over campus it has to be a significant number. THAT is what needs to be the central concern.

    Hepcat in reply to AlecRawls. | October 15, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Reducing deer populations may reduce risk of Lyme disease

    Date: July 1, 2014

    Source: Entomological Society of America

    Summary: Reduced deer populations can lead to a reduction in Lyme disease cases, researchers in Connecticut have found that after a 13-year study was conducted. White-tailed deer serve as the primary host for the adult blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) — the vector for Lyme disease. The study found that the number of resident-reported cases of Lyme disease per 100 households was strongly correlated to deer density in the community.

    RandomCrank in reply to AlecRawls. | October 16, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I agree that deer should be hunted when they encroach on residential areas. Bambi is a rat with long legs and good p.r., etc., but let’s pause to be factual.

    Deer don’t directly spread Lyme’s. The ticks that live on deer do the spreading. This isn’t an argument for coddling Bambi, but rather to say that, if there are deer around, everyone has to be vigilant about ticks.

FreshPondIndians | October 15, 2014 at 3:58 pm

You’re 100% correct on all counts. In 1850’s Rhode Island, for example, no one had EVER seen a deer. They would be captured from parts unknown and be brought in for the village to look at. This wasn’t in Providence, either: it was in a rural village. Today, I can get five or six deer tags a season in Rhode Island. It’s insane.

Doug Wright Old Grouchy | October 15, 2014 at 4:26 pm

Back in the 1990s or perhaps the mid-1980s, having so much fun, time just flies by, The large nature park near our house, Hyland Park Preserve, Bloomington, MN, decided to cull the local deer herd; estimates of the size of the herd were 400-deer, migrating between Golden Valley to the north and the Minnesota River Valley to the south. After much discussion, little of which was public, the Park brought in certified marksmen, only firing at night from elevated deer stands in trees. The Park estimated that next year’s herd was quite a bit larger, yet they had harvested a goodly number of deer. Occasionally deer were found in our backyard especially at night, they loved to chomp on our flowers, the kind my wife liked.

Still, the collective was happy since they had resolved a major issue without to much loss of life, none of which included local resident humans.

Of course, the real issue was the Canada Goose, lovely creatures, so majestic; they leave green poop everywhere and were thought to be almost extinct in the early 1970s. We called them, Flying Rats, or Mice. Someone then noticed they flocked at Silver Lake, Rochester, MN, now known as Green Poop Lake.

Cornell should invite Ted Nugent to ‘perform’.

If only Cayuga Heights had “border control” … but being a liberal bastion and a firm proponent of “open borders” and not wanting to violate deer rights or appear racist, Cayuga Heights reaps what it sows. I hear that some deer making it across open borders are even infecting the native stock with deer ticks!

Bait them. Shoot them. Eat them. Problem solved.

Now all I gotta do is figure out a way to turn that into a multi-year multi-million dollar study grant.

    Paul in reply to tkc882. | October 15, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    How might that effect the LGBT community? Or Muslims?

    There ya’ go. I’ll send you an invoice for my ‘consulting.’

      Muslims? Deer are cloven-hoofed. What’s the problem?

        Imagine how offended they might get seeing you snarf down a big fat greasy deer sausage.

        Mike45 in reply to JBourque. | October 15, 2014 at 10:45 pm

        You are correct. However, the hunter has to say a prayer to Allah as he/she fires the rifle for the met to be halal. If the shot is not fatal, the coup d’ grace has to be in accordance with the proper ritual slaughter.

        The venison from a deer that was shot would not be kosher. Even if the bullet was fired in Allah’s name. But Jews and Christians are not on the protected list, and we don’t have to worry about offending them.

At least we learned that we cannot get rid of these idiots via tubal ligation. Somehow they’ll manage to reproduce.

Thirty miles south of the Peoples Republic of Ithaca we’re overrun with deer, too. If you chase them they stand and look at you until you’re twenty feet away, uncertain whether you’re going to feed them, because many do (and you’re likely to be called out for doing so by a neighbor). There are no gardens and no landscape shrubbery, crops are destroyed, yards are covered, literally, with droppings, and deer ticks are everywhere. The number of deer hit insurance claims-not cost, claims-just in the Town of Owego runs into the thousands annually.

A big step toward eliminating this and many, many other obscure and not so obscure problems perpetuated by various half-wits, dim-wits, crackpots, thousands of useless organizations, and thousands of crooked politicians – the preceding list to include orgainaztions of all stripes, the good, the bad, and the ugly, hospitals, churches, liberal, conservative, and yes, the Cornells of the world – is to completely eliminate non-profit and not-for-profit tax structures. The good and useful will prosper, the bad will disappear or go to jail, and the ugly and useless will consume themselves.

The distinction is nothing more than capital accouting on the balance sheet – and accountability. Not-for management pays itself handsomly, just as well, or better, than for-profit management. Its office space, real estate and improvements, and capital equipment are as good, or better, than those of for-profit organizations. Additionally, many not-fors run extensive and extremely successful commercial operations while simultaneously being subsidized with tax dollars.

It may seem a big leap, but the line between controlling deer in your neighborhood and controlling ebola in your hospital passes directly through these organizations.

Let the thumbs down begin!

    Mystified in reply to Owego. | October 22, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    You are absolutely right, Owego. Having spent more than 30 years in nonprofit management I’ve seen over the years a proliferation of “cause” groups that seem to exist only to milk the benefits of the tax system. I’ve always believed that the existence of the so-called charitable tax deduction was simply an admission by Congress that the tax code was unfair. After all, truly charitable organizations thrived in the US long before there was an income tax and they would also garner contributions in proportion to their service without donors needing a tax deduction.

Is the White House staff moonlighting at Cornell?

Funniest post yet. I actually registered just to comment on this. When I was able to wipe the tears from my eyes (ok, I’m still crying with laughter…so I’m typing through my tears), I found this to be a very interesting post. Possibly re-grew their ovaries? Fascinating! I can’t sit up anymore. Good grief.

Is Cornell always this much of a laugh-fest? What a great place to work! (What were they thinking? Ah, it doesn’t matter! I’ll be laughing for weeks!) Thank you, LI!

Liberals love wolves. How about introducing some to the campus.

It worked in Yellowstone:

… In the 15 years since wolves returned to the park, they found, elk and coyote populations have declined, new aspen, willow and cottonwood trees are growing, and beaver colonies are on the rise.

Imagine the horror is they shot the deer and served them at Cornell’s cafeteria.

    NC Mountain Girl in reply to Hepcat. | October 15, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Maybe, maybe not. The whole natural food movement has revived an interest in hunting. Many in the one percent have had venison and game birds that were farm raised. They also know from their love of wild caught seafood that farmed venison doesn’t taste as complex as the real thing.

    Note also that foodies like Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern have based entire episodes of their TV shows around shooting their own game. Bourdain went hunting with Ted Nugent and then enjoyed going rock ‘n roll on Nugent’s shooting range for dessert.

    Ragspierre in reply to Hepcat. | October 15, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    Hey, shot…er, shop…local…

NC Mountain Girl | October 15, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Both white tail deer and Canada geese are natural residents of modern upscale suburbs. The current fashion of well tended lawns, lush gardens, water features and naturalistic looking public “forest preserves” offer perfect habitat. As do leash laws and restrictions upon hunting.

Deer find little to eat in most woods but the trees do provide cover during the day so they can come out and night and predate upon the suburbanites’ plantings. With some residents putting out grain for birds plus the absence of free roaming dogs to prey upon fawns it becomes white tail heaven.

The geese love how the neatly cropped lawns go all the way to the water’s edge. In nature a pond’s edge is often thick with brush and water grasses that can conceal predators.

    The corn crop is maturing here in Iowa and you’re taking your life in your hands driving down a country road. The deer are everywhere. Whack one and you’re looking at minimum damages of $5,000.

      Casey in reply to creeper. | October 17, 2014 at 8:24 pm

      Isn’t there some little gizmo you can put on your car which drives deer away by high-pitched sound? I seem to recall reading about that a long time ago.

smalltownoklahoman | October 15, 2014 at 6:10 pm

Here’s something you ought to do with all those deer and the geese Doug Wright mentioned.

Humphrey's Executor | October 15, 2014 at 7:34 pm

For a fraction of the cost of the sterilization they could offer a bounty — $200 a head.

Shoot them. Serve them. Think of the [hungry] children!

    Paul in reply to n.n. | October 15, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    We do that in Texas… you can donate processed deer meat to the food pantries. I think they just changed things up so you can do the same with wild pig too.

This program is so sexist! Why are the does being sterilized? Why don’t they cut off the bucks’ balls instead? Wouldn’t that be cheaper than surgery on the does? But noooo… they don’t even consider that because they are all misogynistic sexists!

Not rocket science. When you have a surplus of deer, remove does. Why I can get one buck license a year, but four antlerless licenses. You kill a doe, you cut back on the reproduction rate. You kill a buck, you just make another buck’s harem larger.

Those deer need free food. If the deer were provided delectable food daily they wouldn’t eat the Cornell shrubs, would not be ranging looking for food, and would be so fat they wouldn’t move around much. And, they should be provided with free Obamaphones.

Clearly Cornell is run by people too foolish to be given stewardship of their five billion dollar endowment.

“Es ist nichts schrecklicher als eine tätige Unwissenheit.”
(Nothing is more terrible than ignorance in action.)
– Goethe

[…] Cornell decided to control the local deer population via tubal ligation. […]

I’m surprised they didn’t try the obvious solution: sexual reassignment surgery for all the does. The hormone treatments would have prevented them from ever coming into heat.

Or else sex reassignment for all the bucks. As long as none of them were burdened with unwanted fawns.

Henry Hawkins | October 16, 2014 at 7:37 pm

I’m praying for a plague of locusts to hit Cornell just to see what they’d do about it.

Didn’t really think this one through, did they. So typical – to just stop when they come to a convenient conclusion, with no thought as to what comes after…

I don’t understand why Ithaca by municipal ordinance and Cornell by campus rule/regulation don’t just forbid the deer from entering their premises?

norenforsenate | October 19, 2014 at 11:22 pm

My Aunt lives in Pacific Grove, CA..identical deer issue..what did they do? According to her, nothing….

Were the botched operations done by the students or staff of University College of Veterinary Medicine?