In January 2017 Vassar College will once again have wildlife management professionals from the U.S. Department of Agriculture conduct a cull to reduce the deer population at the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve (VFEP).
Seven years ago Vassar began a long-term deer management program at its farm and preserve to protect the health of that ecosystem and address the damage caused there by an unsustainable deer population. Experience and research findings have shown that when this deer population is too large, seedlings and saplings in the VFEP are nearly eliminated because too many deer rely on them as their food source. If these conditions were left unaddressed there would be no generation of young trees to succeed the current stand, as well as further consequences for plant diversity and the overall ecosystem on the 530-acre site. Maintaining ecological balance at the VFEP is also essential to the college’s environmental research, teaching, and community educational outreach conducted on the site. As Vassar continues its deer management program it is encouraged to see the beginnings of re-growth in the VFEP’s sapling population.
Public safety considerations remain a top priority when a cull is conducted, beginning with the decision to have experienced biologists from USDA Wildlife Services do the work. Signs are posted at the entrance of the VFEP and throughout the acreage well in advance of the cull beginning. The work is only done at night when the VFEP is officially closed, and during the college's winter break when usage of the land is lowest. Additionally, hundreds of neighboring residents, schools, and businesses are notified by mail.
Once again venison from the culled deer will be processed and then donated to local food pantries through Hunters Helping the Hungry, a longtime program run the Federation of Dutchess County Fish and Game Clubs. The VFEP website provides further information about the upcoming cull and Vassar’s deer management program, including answers to a series of commonly asked questions. Questions that aren't addressed in this online information can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.