The Clifton Deer Program was formed by a group of Cincinnati residents for the purpose of promoting humane methods of deer population management and the ecological health of our parks and communities. Our approach, premised on the belief that we do not have to choose between compassion and an effective solution – we can have both – has allowed us to navigate the turbulent social and political waters of deer management to create what to our knowledge is the longest running community led fertility control research study in the nation.
The timeline below presents highlights from our journey.
The Parks expressed concern over the ecological damage to three Clifton area parks caused by the burgeoning deer population. Bow hunting was to begin on September 27th.
August 4, 2014
Future Clifton Deer Program Founders Request Moratorium, engage in Respectful Dialogue with Officials while researching Non-lethal Alternatives
While recognizing the legitimacy of the Parks' ecological concerns, future Clifton Deer Program founders also understood that death by arrow is often slow and painful and did not want the beautiful, friendly neighborhood deer of Clifton to endure such a brutal end. They requested a one year moratorium to allow non-lethal alternatives to be considered. They began extensive research on contraceptives and sterilization and talked with experts around the nation to learn everything they could about non-lethal options. During this process, they maintained an open and respectful dialogue with the Cincinnati Parks and other City officials.Fall 2014
The Parks' bow hunting plan was controversial from the start. Activists opposed to the bow hunting plan staged protests in Clifton throughout the Fall of 2014. Although appreciative of the passion and good intentions of the protesters, future Clifton Deer Program founders believed that respectful dialogue with Parks officials and finding a viable alternative to lethal culling would ultimately produce better results.Fall 2014
The Parks Board of Commissioners directed staff to seek more feedback from the Clifton community before proceeding.September 18, 2014
Future Clifton Deer Program founders and other community members presented testimony before the Human Services Committee of the Cincinnati City Council on fertility control options to lethal culling.October 6, 2014
Many people, from hunters to animal welfare advocates to residents who just wanted the deer problem solved and didn't care how it happened, participated in the meeting. Future Clifton Deer Program founders attended the meeting and expressed their view that humane alternatives to lethal culling should be explored. They also expressed the view that the Cincinnati Parks were not the enemy and that the verbal attacks of some activists being directed at Parks' employees were unwarranted and counterproductive.October 6, 2014
They focused their comments on science-based non-lethal alternatives and a desire to collaborate constructively with the Cincinnati Parks.Read The StoryOctober 11, 2014
Parks Board Votes to Suspend Bow Hunting in Clifton Parks, Collaborate with Community Members wanting to Develop Non-Lethal Pilot Program
The Parks Board of Commissioners gave interested community members until June 15, 2015 - only nine months - to develop and obtain Board and Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife approval for a viable non-lethal pilot program capable of reducing the Clifton deer population to an eco-sustainable level. The Board appointed a Parks Liaison to collaborate with interested community members.Read The Parks' Requirements for a Non-lethal PlanOctober 16, 2014
The interested parties included future Clifton Deer Program founders and individuals who had led the public protests against bow hunting, including individuals who did not reside in Clifton. Parks Superintendent Jim Burkhart served as liaison between the participants and the Parks Board.
The group met numerous times from mid-October through early December to discuss non-lethal options, including immuno-contraceptives and sterilization.
Discussions among the group members revealed many different goals and motivations within the group, making progress difficult and consensus ultimately impossible.October - December, 2014
After an exhaustive study of the alternatives, the future Clifton Deer Program founders concluded that the best and perhaps only way of satisfying the Parks Board criteria for a non-lethal alternative was a sterilization program.
Others included in the community collaboration favored an immuno- contraception program that in the view of the future Clifton Deer Program founders would not and could not satisfy the Parks Board criteria. The immunocontraception advocates also objected to the use of White Buffalo, Inc., the nation's leading sterilization service provider, because it also engaged in lethal culling for communities requesting it.
Concerned that discussions among participants in the community collaboration effort had become unproductive and mindful of the Parks' June 15th deadline, the future Clifton Deer Program founders, while continuing to attempt to reach consensus in the larger group, organized themselves as The Clifton Deer Sterilization Working Group and began working in earnest on a formal sterilization proposal that would satisfy all criteria established by the Parks Board.Mid-November 2014
The commitment of a highly respected researcher and wildlife biologist moved sterilization from an abstract idea to an actionable plan, and was key to eventually gaining required approvals at the local and state level.Read the WBI Commitment LetterNovember 29, 2014
The letter expressed HSUS' "strong support" for the sterilization proposal and noted that sterilization "can be used as a humane approach for managing deer populations in urban landscapes."
Obtaining the support of HSUS was key to addressing concerns expressed by some opponents over whether sterilization was safe and humane.Read the HSUS LetterDecember 10, 2014
The comprehensive proposal satisfied all the Parks Board's criteria for a non-lethal alternative. The Working Group requested that the Parks Board vote on the proposal at its January meeting.Read The ProposalDecember 15, 2014
After the Sterilization Proposal was submitted, Parks' management said that the Working Group would need to obtain written approval from Clifton's neighborhood council, Clifton Town Meeting (CTM), before the Proposal would be presented to the Parks Board for approval.December 21, 2014
The Sterilization Working Group spent January providing information about its Proposal to and answering the questions of CTM Trustees.
The Working Group also educated CTM Trustees, the Parks, and interested community members as to why an alternative immuno-contraceptive proposal put forth by sterilization opponents did not meet the criteria established by the Parks Board, was unlikely to be approved by state wildlife officials, and would not meaningfully reduce the Clifton deer population.January 2015
Dr. Anthony DeNicola, PhD., President of White Buffalo, Inc., discussed the science behind the sterilization program and answered questions. Attendees included Cincinnati Parks and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) representatives, CTM Trustees, and interested community members.January 28, 2015
The CTM President explained that the Sterilization Proposal was the Board's first choice because "this proposal, based on its approach and its goals, appears much more likely than the other [immunocontraception] proposal to significantly reduce the deer population in the Clifton Parks by the end of the research program."Read the CTM Letter to the Parks BoardFebruary 2, 2015
The vote cleared the way for White Buffalo, Inc. to submit a research study permit application to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife.Read Parks Director Cardin's Report & Recommendation to the BoardFebruary 19, 2015
The website - an early version of this one - answered many common questions about the proposed program and reflected the Working Group's commitment to transparency.February 19, 2015
The proposal, submitted to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife (ODNR) with a letter of support from Parks Director Carden, outlined plans for a five year research study to see how much the Clifton deer population could be lowered through nonlethal means alone.
Soon after the proposal was submitted, representatives of White Buffalo, Inc., the Sterilization Working Group, and the Cincinnati Parks met with ODNR officials to discuss the proposal and to answer questions. The meeting was hosted in Columbus by then State Representative Denise Driehaus.Read Director Cardin's Letter of Support and White Buffalo's Research ProposalMarch 6, 2015
Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife grants research permit to White Buffalo, Inc.
The permit - the first granted to a sterilization program in the State of Ohio - allowed the Clifton Deer Program to operate for its first three field seasons, at which time a renewal could be sought. The permit required White Buffalo to conduct annual scientifically-based population surveys and report the findings to ODNR.May 11, 2015
Establishing a non-profit organization able to receive tax exempt donations was critical to securing the private funding necessary to launch and sustain the program.July 2015
Superintendent Burkhart hailed the Clifton Deer Program as the "first of its kind in the State of Ohio" and said the research study could "advance our ongoing efforts to balance the needs of our plants, animals and citizens."Read the Press ReleaseAugust 20, 2015
Two CliftonDeer.org representatives and City Councilman Chris Seelbach took to the airwaves to discuss the launch of the Clifton Deer Program on 91.7 WVXU Cincinnati Edition.Listen to the InterviewJuly 20, 2015
Stephanie Boyles Griffin, Senior Director of Innovative Wildlife Management & Services for HSUS, said, “We’re excited to partner with CliftonDeer.org to advance the use of effective, humane fertility control methods for managing wildlife populations.”Read the HSUS Press ReleaseNov 12, 2015
Cincinnati City Council Amends Firearms Ordinance to Allow the Discharge of Dart Projectors used in Fertility Control Program
CliftonDeer.org worked with the Cincinnati Parks and members of the Cincinnati Council's Law & Public Safety Committee to pass the amendment in time for the upcoming first round of sterilizations.Nov 12, 2015
White Buffalo's baseline population survey showed the presence of ~99 deer in the study area, almost twice as many as estimated by the Parks in its 2015 aerial infrared count. Nonetheless, the field team was able to sterilize 86% of the adult does in the herd - enough to stop herd growth and begin reductions.Read Our 2015/2016 Field ReportFall 2015/Winter 2016
Reporter Rich Jaffe interviewed CliftonDeer.org leaders and volunteers as the Program's 1st field season came to a close.
Watch the StoryDecember 9, 2015
Joint Humane Society of the United States, White Buffalo, Inc. and CliftonDeer.org Press Release touts "Groundbreaking Efforts"
Stephanie Boyles Griffin, Senior Director of Innovative Wildlife Management & Services at The Humane Society of the United States, who also participated in field operations, said, “We are proud to collaborate with CliftonDeer.Org on their groundbreaking efforts to research humane, effective and sustainable deer management methods. If successful, we hope the project will serve as a model for municipalities to replicate not only in Ohio, but throughout the entire country.”Read the Joint Press ReleaseDecember 11, 2015
"Surgical sterilization raises issues of science, compassion, social order, practicality, tradition, sport and need," wrote reporter Carrie Blackmore Smith.
Read the ArticleDecember 28, 2015
"Among the many things we've learned since starting this project is how diverse and deeply felt people's attitudes and values are when it comes to the treatment of animals, deer in particular," wrote CliftonDeer.org founder Robert Rack.
Read the Op EdJanuary 6, 2016
A partnership between The Ohio State University Extension, The Ohio Division of Wildlife, USDA‐APHIS, Wildlife Services, The Great Parks of Hamilton County, the Lake Erie Allegheny Partnership, and the City of Cleveland Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, the Ohio Community Wildlife Cooperative Annual Conference drew local officials and other interested parties from around the state.
November 15, 2016
With fewer field nights and donated housing for our out-of-town consultants, CliftonDeer.org was able to cut costs of operations by more than 40% compared to its first field season.Read Our 2016/2017 Field ReportFall 2016/Winter 2017
A Discovery Channel producer and camera crew spent several days in Clifton during our January field operations. The program aired in Canada and the United States.
Watch the ProgramFebruary 2017
The steamy Cincinnati weather couldn't stop a group of hearty volunteers from spreading the word about humane deer management!
July 4, 2017
Training would take several years and a lot of grit, including more than 150 hours of in-field apprenticeship with professional darters. The first step was a 16 credit hour Chemical Immobilization of Animals Course in Florida, offered by Safe Capture International, followed by a Remote Drug Delivery & Tactical Shooting Seminar in Oklahoma sponsored by Pneu-Dart, in the Fall of 2017.
Of all the moving parts and variables field operations must contend with, weather is one we cannot control. A winter ice storm shut down operations for one night.Read Our 2017/2018 Field ReportFall 2017/Winter 2018
The renewal allowed the Clifton Deer Program to continue through 2020.May 10, 2018
The update outlined the future goals of the Program: (1) to determine whether an acceptable deer population level can be achieved and maintained using non-lethal fertility control methods alone; and (2) to develop local capture and surgical expertise to replace outside consultants and make the Program cost effective compared to other (lethal) population control methods.Read the Mid-Project UpdateSeptember 2018
This field season brought an exciting change: All surgeries were performed in the state-of-the-art surgical suite at the UCAN Nonprofit Spay & Neuter Clinic.Read Our 2018/2019 Field ReportFall 2018/Winter 2019
The Workshop, sponsored by the Botstiber Institute for Wildlife Fertility Control, was held in Tarrytown, NY and focused on non-lethal deer management methods in urban areas. CliftonDeer.org's presentation was titled "Humane Deer Management: Organizing from the Ground Up: The Clifton Deer Story."Watch Our PresentationMay 2, 2019
As of February 2020, 98% of the adult female deer in the study area had been sterilized, leading to a dramatic drop in the number of fawns being added to the population.Read Our 2019/2020 Field ReportFall 2019/Winter 2020
The renewal allowed the Clifton Deer Program to continue through Spring 2023.December 4, 2020
Conducting field operations during the height of Covid was an extra challenge for the team!Read Our 2020/2021 Field ReportFall 2020/Winter 2021
With 99% of the adult females in the herd sterilized, fawn recruitment rates fell from ~16 fawns per 25 adult does at the beginning of the study to fewer than 1 fawn per 25 adult does.Read the 2021/2022 Field ReportFall 2021/Winter 2022
Clifton Deer Program leadership expressed gratitude for the Parks’ 2014 invitation to collaborate on a nonlethal alternative that led to the development of the Program, and for the Parks’ continuing interest and support.Watch the PresentationAugust 18, 2022
Although a fully trained capture specialist with more than 40 successful captures under his belt, our volunteer darter continues to hone his knowledge and skills, this time with 16 hours of continuing education at a Chemical Immobilization of Animals Workshop hosted by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Department of Agriculture.October 2022
Six of the seven deer treated this season were captured along the northeast border of our study area and appear to have home ranges that lie mostly outside of the study area.Read our 2022/2023 Field Report Fall 2022/Winter 2023
The permit allows the Clifton Deer Program to continue operating through Spring 2026.April 26, 2023