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 1960s 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 the 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 III: 2003-2009). The PZP study, conducted on Fire Island until 2009, showed mixed results.
The information collected on Fire Island and at the William Floyd Estate was used to inform the Seashore's White-tailed Deer Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement.
Learn more about white-tailed deer on Fire Island.