Thousands sign online petition to stop Cornell's Deer Management Practices

By Kelly McCarthy

March 28, 2014 Updated Mar 28, 2014 at 6:32 PM EDT

Ithaca, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Cornell University's Deer Management Program is butting heads with many people in the community. For the past several years part of the program has included killing deer to control the population in Ithaca.

Cornell's deer management program includes trapping and killing deer to control what they say is a "chronic deer overpopulation" problem. Trained employees have been killing a number of deer on their lands since 2007.

But for the past two years they've applied for an received nuisance deer control permits from the Department of Environmental Conservation, which allows them to take out even more deer between Feb. 1 and March 31.

Their solution is not going over well with many people in the community.

"Right now we have 3,900 signatures and expect to get 4,000 easily by the end of the day," said James LaVeck, co-founder of CayugaDeer.org..

The petition started on Sunday and has racked up nearly a thousand signatures a day. People who have signed their name want Cornell to find another way to control its deer population.

"They're turning our community into an open-air slaughter house," LaVeck said.

In a written statement Cornell University says its deer management practices are "essential to protecting plant research, and to preserve the teaching and research mission of the university....To protect the health and safety of our faculty, staff, students and visitors...And to protect our agricultural, rural and suburban neighbors."

LaVeck said the community feels disrespected.

"The idea that this has been secretly going on out in the shadows and hidden areas in wildlife sanctuaries that all of us use and enjoy is really upsetting," LaVeck said.

A spokesperson for Cornell University said whenever they're killing deer near public trails, they put up signs around the area to let the community know.

"There's no way that people in this community had any idea that trapping and bolting of deer was happening all around our town," LaVeck said.

LaVeck started a website to pressure Cornell, and others who trap and bolt deer, to end the violence, and said the school's relationship with the community is more important.

Cornell's statement said its program has maintained a spotless safety record since it began in 2007. The university just finished its deer management efforts under this year's nuisance permit this week.

They are now reviewing the results of the program and say part of the review process will include community feedback.