Due to the successful removal of 96 deer from Fire Island National Seashore properties this March, the park service was able to donate 2,610 pounds of venison to Island Harvest’s local food bank in Hauppauge.
“We are grateful to partner with Fire Island National Seashore in addressing the critical issue of food insecurity across Long Island,” said Randi Shubin Dresner, president and CEO, Island Harvest Food Bank. “The donation of venison will provide much-needed dietary protein while helping close the meal gap among people struggling to feed their families.”
Island Harvest Food Bank is the largest hunger-relief organization on Long Island, delivering food to a network of food pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency feeding programs across Long Island.
"Fire Island National Seashore is proud to continue our partnership with Island Harvest Food Bank and bringing support to our local communities through this donation,” said Alexcy Romero, superintendent of Fire Island National Seashore.
The meat was harvested by a contracted butcher as part of the integrated deer management strategy, which was approved and implemented in 2016. The goal, according to park planner Kaetlyn Jackson, is to protect and restore the natural habitats. Biologists, she said, continue to monitor the recovery response with the reduced deer population to help form future management practices.
“Biologist found trends of habitats degrading over time. In the ‘60s, it was really rare to see a deer. We think they swam over or walked over ice in the winter to Fire Island,” she said of the overpopulation of deer. “The deer do so well on Long Island and Fire Island because people changed and manipulated the habitat. Deer thrive in yards, broken forests and fields.”
Being that there is no apex predator, she added, the only type of population control for deer on the island was winter starvation.
“It’s hard for people to like a program that eliminates big megafauna. They are lovable creatures,” Jackson said. “It’s hard for people to look at the bigger picture, but the park system looks at the ecosystem as a whole.”
Deer management operations have been completed for the 2021 season. Fifty-four deer were removed from National Park Service lands at the William Floyd Estate and 42 deer from National Park Service lands on Fire Island.
“This is not something we love to do, but we understand its important for the whole system,” Jackson continued. “The birds are coming back and some reptiles. Some things we lost and we just can’t get back, but hopefully this will slow that transition.”
White Buffalo Inc, a 501(c)(3) sharpshooter organization, was contracted to carry out the deer reduction hunt. The company, Jackson said, is dedicated to the conservation of native species and ecosystems. The hunt was conducted months ago and done so at a safe distance of over 500 feet from any dwelling.
“We are pleased with the outcome of this year’s reduction efforts and helping the National Park Service move towards their goal of a healthy ecosystem through a humane, safe, and effective program," added Dr. Anthony DeNicola, founder/CEO of White Buffalo.
This year was the last year of the funding to jump-start the program, meaning, Jackson said, to continue the program to provide food to Island Harvest, additional partnerships and funding will have to be found.
The Fire Island National Seashore encompasses 26 miles of ocean and bay shoreline, maritime forests, and residential communities on Fire Island; and the historic William Floyd Estate on mainland Long Island in Mastic Beach. Fire Island's dynamic coastal landscape is home to a diversity of plants and wildlife and offers a retreat from nearby metropolitan New York. The 613-acre William Floyd Estate was the home of one of the four New York signers of the Declaration of Independence and eight generations of Floyd family members. Visit us online at www.nps.gov/fiis, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fireislandnps, and on Instagram www.instagram.com/fireislandnps.