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Vol. LXVI, No. 24
December 5, 2014
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NIH Embarks on Deer Management Plan

Over the next 4 years, starting this month, trained doctoral deer population control
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 deprivation.

Deer eating grass on campus

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)


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