White-tailed Deer on Fire Island
Deer are herbivores, and eat a wide variety of vegetation. Decades of vegetation monitoring in the globally rare Sunken Forest and elsewhere within the Seashore show deer have impacted the ecosystem and threaten the ability of Seashore forests to regenerate naturally.
There are roughly 300 deer on Fire Island and 100 at the William Floyd Estate. The number of deer however is not as important as the impacts these animals have on the condition of natural habitats and historic plantings at the William Floyd Estate. Learn more about the research which helps the National Park Service better understand the impact of white-tailed deer and about the seashore's White-tailed Deer Management Plan.
Coexisting with Wildlife
We play an important role in preserving a balanced ecosystem, especially on Fire Island where people and nature coexist.
On Fire Island some deer are accustomed to humans and tend not to flee. For this reason people can get very close to deer and, oftentimes, try to touch or feed them by hand. It is understandable that a close encounter with a wild animal in a natural setting is exciting. However it is best to maintain a safe distance from deer in order to promote a natural environment for the animals themselves and to protect yourself from harm.
Do not feed deer. Feeding deer can change their natural behaviors and may affect their overall health. This is even true of inadvertent food sources like garbage or unsecured food items. Wildlife can become "food-conditioned" and may look for food near public spaces or garbage cans.
Food-conditioning can lead to undesirable and potentially unsafe human-deer interactions. Food-conditioned deer may also be more likely to become entangled in fencing, approach us, or be struck by a vehicle when in search of food.
When alarmed, a wild animal may scratch, kick, or bite, and injure those who come too close. Be sure to maintain a safe distance when viewing wildlife.
Last updated: April 11, 2018