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Donors raise $100G for East Hampton Village deer sterilization

Deer seen in a field off of Apaquogue

Deer seen in a field off of Apaquogue Road in East Hampton on Friday, June 27, 2014. Credit: Veronique Louis

The scope of an experimental deer-sterilization program in East Hampton Village more than quadrupled Thursday, as an outside group committed $100,000 to the effort to combat overpopulation.

The Village Preservation Society of East Hampton, a civic group, raised the money from more than 100 donors since mid-June, executive director Kathleen Cunningham said.

"It was the quickest fundraising program I've ever seen," she said. "I think it really underscored a strong desire on the part of the community that something be done."

The donation adds to the $30,000 the village board budgeted for the program, which is scheduled to begin in January. Village administrator Rebecca Molinaro called the gift "extremely generous" and said an anonymous donor pledged another contribution earlier in the summer that will push the program "close to $150,000."

East Hampton Village officials are drafting a contract with White Buffalo Inc., the Connecticut nonprofit selected to conduct the program at an estimated cost of $1,000 a deer.

White Buffalo biologists will target does in the 5-square-mile village, tranquilizing them with dart guns before driving them to a veterinarian who will remove their ovaries.

Molinaro said the program will focus on public and private properties where deer are known to congregate.

The sterilization effort comes after a U.S. Department of Agriculture culling program on the East End, beset by lawsuits and protests by animal-rights activists and hunters, fell far short of expectations this past winter and spring, killing 192 deer instead of the initial estimate of up to 3,000.

Both programs stemmed from East End residents' complaints over a deer population that some said has reached unhealthy levels. Residents blame deer for decimating gardens and farms, causing vehicle accidents and contributing to the spread of tick-borne disease.

"The village is committed to funding this as a multiyear project," Molinaro said. "Certainly your first year is your most expensive year. With this influx of funding we've had, we'll be able to maximize the impact."