White-tailed Deer Management Plan

The National Park Service (NPS) initiated a white-tailed deer management planning effort in 2011 in an effort to preserve and restore natural ecosystems in peril on Fire Island; to preserve the historically significant landscape at the William Floyd Estate on Long Island; and to reduce human-wildlife conflicts.

On April 28, 2016, the NPS Northeast Regional Director approved Fire Island National Seashore's Final Deer Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (Final Plan/EIS) through a record of decision. The plan was developed in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), U.S. Department of Agriculture –Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (USDA - APHIS), and with public involvement.

The plan sets forth an integrated management strategy which is necessary to protect the globally rare Sunken Forest and other natural areas on Fire Island, including the maritime forest at Carrington, Talisman, Blue Point, and Watch Hill/Wilderness; and, to maintain the historic landscape at the William Floyd Estate, a unit of the seashore located in Mastic Beach on Long Island.

The breadth of public and agency comments received and the NPS response to substantive comments are included in the approved plan, which identifies the National Park Service (NPS) preferred mnagement alternative, Alternative D.

The integrategrated deer management strategy calls for:

  • enhanced education and outreach
  • enhanced deer and vegetation monitoring
  • fencing of the historic core at the William Floyd Estate (approximately 80 acres)
  • exclosure fencing in the Sunken Forest (approximately 44 acres of maritime holly forest)
  • a combination of sharpshooting (on NPS properties), capture and euthanasia of individual deer (where appropriate), and public hunting (within the Fire Island Wilderness only) to achieve the plan objectives (estimated at 20-25 deer per square mile)
  • the option for fertility control to maintain deer density when a fertility control agent which meets NPS criteria becomes available (NPS criteria may be found in the Final Deer Plan/EIS on pages 39-41, and more information on the development of these criteria may be found in Appendix E on page E-8. Additional information on fertility control may be found in Appendix D.)

The final plan and planning documents may be viewed on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website.


Studying White-tailed Deer and Vegetation on Fire Island

White-tailed deer were rarely seen on Fire Island when the national seashore was established in 1964. In the late 1960s scientists began studying the Sunken Forest, a globally rare and centuries-old maritime forest on Fire Island. For the past 50 years, researchers have returned to the Sunken Forest to survey plots established in 1967 to measure change in the amount and type of vegetation in the forest, and to understand how herbivores like white-tailed deer influence those changes. Deer and vegetation research at Fire Island National Seashore has shown that white-tailed deer are the primary influence on the forest and are responsible for the decline seedling, sapling, and herbaceous plant recruitment.

In 1993 t
he Humane Society of the United States initiated a long-term study to investigate whether an immunocontraceptive vaccine, porcine zona pellucida (PZP) could be useful at Fire Island as a deer management tool. Fire Island National Seashore and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) partnered during the second and third phases of this study (Phase I: 1993-1997, Phase II: 1998-2002, Phase II: 2003-2009). The PZP study, conducted on Fire Island until 2009, showed mixed results.

Email us for a chronology of events related to deer and vegetation research and the white-tailed deer management plan.


Last updated: April 11, 2018

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