City Says It Will Leave Lonely Harlem Deer Alone, And So Should You

December 14, 2016

deer-in-harlem-parkHarlem residents are concerned and confused by a one-antlered deer that has taken up residence in a park there. The buck has been living in Jackie Robinson Park, a block-wide greensward between 145th and 155th streets, for nearly two weeks, after experts speculate he walked and/or swam to Manhattan from the Bronx in search of a mate amid the hormonal frenzy of the annual rut.

Video by Collette Spagnolo

Neighbor Collette Spagnolo told Gothamist she has seen the deer near the swimming pool at the south end of the park for the last week. “It’s not shy at all and comes right up to the fence when people are around,” she wrote in an email. Spagnolo said she reached out in hopes to motivate the city to move the “poor deer.”

A Parks Department spokeswoman said that won’t happen anytime soon, explaining that state environmental regulations ban capturing and relocating deer. For now, the spokeswoman said, the deer is healthy. Should it get seriously injured or endanger humans, the authorities may intervene, but that would likely result in them killing the deer. She advised uptown park-goers not to approach the recent transplant.

Deer are a common sight, and nuisance, in the suburbs of Long Island, Westchester County, and New Jersey, and are growing in number in spread-out parts out the outer boroughs such as the northern reaches of the Bronx. In recent years, the city has struggled to address the deer in Staten Island, where a combination of relatively abundant green space and strict gun and hunting restrictions have allowed the population to grow unchecked. This year, the city began an experimental program of trapping hundreds of deer and performing vasectomies on them, against the advice of the state and an array of deer control experts, who recommended killing the deer instead.

Asked if the Harlem deer seemed hungry, Spagnolo wrote:

There’s some vegetation in that patch that he’s essentially caged into but I can’t imagine why else he would be so people-friendly unless he was hungry.(I’m also from queens so I have no friggin idea what deer eat????)

Deer eat vegetation, nuts, and fruits, and as upstate native and Gothamist editor in chief John Del Signore put it, “In most places they’re basically considered one step above vermin, so it’s hard for me to get too worked up about this deer…[The deer] is gonna be fine—they’re hardy creatures.”

The real test of this hypothesis may be if/when the deer gets hit by a crosstown bus.

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