|Over the next 4 years, starting this month, trained doctoral deer population control experts, in coordination with NIH veterinary staff, will anesthetize and neuter adult female deer on campus.
For many NIH employees, the presence of white-tailed deer on the Bethesda
campus is a welcome sight, offering a rural feel in our otherwise urban setting.
For others, deer in the roadway blocking traffic, or worse yet, creating an accident
threat is an unnecessary nuisance. During mating season, the risk to human
safety is compounded when males tend to become more aggressive and reckless.
Regardless of what side you stand on, the densely developed and enclosed campus
with few remaining open spaces is not an ideal habitat for a growing deer
population. Based on expert evaluation, our 322-acre campus and its associated
“livable” square footage has the ability to sustain a herd of 26 deer. The current
population, with the birth of many new fawns this year, is estimated to be 30-40
total. With an average lifespan of 10-15
years, the deer’s health and wellbeing are
in jeopardy, particularly due to nutritional
NIH does not permit hunting on campus.
There are no known non-human predators
(except a rare bear!). And, to date,
no population control has been conducted.
The Maryland department of natural
resources does not allow relocation of
deer. To continue doing nothing would
not only be inhumane to the deer but also
dangerous to our employees.
“After looking at all options, particularly non-lethal methods, the NIH identified
the most effective approach that will manage, stabilize and potentially reduce the
population in a long-term, safe, humane and socially and biologically acceptable
manner,” said Dr. Alfred Johnson, director of the Office of Research Services, the
office responsible for overseeing the management plan. Over the next 4 years,
starting this month, trained doctoral deer population control experts, in coordination
with NIH veterinary staff, will anesthetize and neuter adult females. All
local, state and federal requirements will be followed.
This 10-15 minute, non-lethal solution—less invasive than spaying a cat or
dog—has been effectively enacted in the City of Fairfax and other locales around
the country. “Over the long term, this program should reduce, but continue to
protect the overall welfare of, the deer population while increasing employee
safety,” said Johnson.
Deer Park - Video (Video courtesy Shashi Ravindran, NINR)