East Hampton Village's experimental deer-sterilization program has enraged some of the very animal lovers it was meant to placate, and they are calling for an end to the program.
Wildlife activists last week asked a state judge to halt the sterilizations, claiming the surgeries have caused at least nine animals to die of complications from surgery or pregnancies -- after the strategy was billed as a nonlethal alternative to culling or hunting.
The nonprofit East Hampton Group for Wildlife filed the lawsuit in state Supreme Court last Friday, claiming the village's contractors performed surgeries in an unsanitary shed, didn't wear proper protective gear and used out-of-state veterinarians not licensed in New York.
"If I had a relative whose surgeon was very careless, would I rehire the surgeon?" said Bill Crain, a Montauk psychology professor and a founder of the wildlife group. The lawsuit describes a graphic scene of citizens trying to help a sterilized and sick doe deliver two stillborn fawns.
The Connecticut nonprofit White Buffalo Inc., the village's contractor for the program, last week completed a second round of surgeries that have sterilized 160 does and 50 bucks since January, White Buffalo founder Anthony DeNicola said Wednesday.
DeNicola defended his group's practices, saying state regulators have continued to issue licenses for the experimental program. "These folks, in my mind, are reaching for straws," he said of critics.
East Hampton Village has been named as a defendant. Village administrator Rebecca Molinaro said Thursday that the village allocated $50,000 in the 2015-2016 budget to continue the program. She said the village followed a DEC recommendation to perform the surgeries before breeding season.
A White Buffalo team captured and sterilized 46 does and, for the first time, 50 bucks over about 12 days in late October and early November, DeNicola said. In January, the group focused exclusively on females and sterilized 114 in 12 days.
DeNicola said in January that three does died shortly after surgery. He said some risk is inherent in the procedure because animals are not screened for age or health problems beforehand.
State Department of Environmental Conservation reports showed six additional does died from pregnancy complications this past spring and summer, months after their ovaries were removed, the suit said.
DeNicola said it was an anomaly that the does carried fetuses to term after sterilization; most pregnancies are terminated as a result.
No animals appear to have died in the most recent round of surgeries, he added.
Crain said the wildlife group is planning to march through East Hampton on Saturday to protest the program.