Six Winters of FINS Thinning the Deer Heard

A whitetail deer roaming the empty boardwalks of Cherry Grove in December. Photo by Ted Steffensen.

On the heels of recent devastating storms, National Park Service and Fire Island National Seashore announced their plans to resume deer culling operations, during the months of January and February of 2024.

Said culling will take place on federals land tracts on Fire Island proper, as well as the William Floyd Estate, a unit of Fire Island National Seashore located at Mastic Beach on Greater Long Island.

This marks the sixth winter of sharpshooting of white tail deer on Fire Island National Seashore (FINS) properties using the Fire Island National Seashore White-tailed Deer Management Plan as its impetus The plan, approved in April 2016, sets forth an integrated deer management strategy to achieve a deer density goal of 20 to 25 deer per square mile and to reduce human-wildlife conflicts.

Fire Island National Seashore has contracted with professional sharpshooters to carry out deer culling operations on federal lands on Fire Island and at the William Floyd Estate. Sharpshooting activities will take place on federal lands only. In the interests of public safety, park areas will be closed at times when active shooting operations are underway.

With so much damage to the natural and manmade infrastructure of Fire Island presently, as a result of back-to-back storms on December 18, 2023 and January 10, 2024 both on Fire Island and South Shore Long Island; we questioned FINS Interpretation Chief Nick Clemons over the weekend about the prudence of conducting such an undertaking right now.

“This was predetermined,” said Clemmons during our telephone conversation. “The sharpshooting contracts were awarded months ago.”

A joint lawsuit filed by Animal Welfare Institute of Washington, D.C. and Wildlife Preserves, Inc. of New Jersey against the FINS Deer Management Plan disputing the covenants some of the property tracts within the Sunken Forest remains pending in federal courts, as it has been since 2017.

“In August 2023 Plaintiffs and Defendants submitted their Motions for Summary Judgment, and we are waiting on the Court to either conduct oral argument or rule…” wrote Wildlife Preserves Managing Trustee Anita Austenberg Shotwell when we contacted her for comment. “I am incredibly saddened and disappointed to learn there is yet another year of lethal ‘deer removal operations’ planned for Fire Island and the William Floyd Estate,” she continued.  I’m sure that most summer visitors to Fire Island are not even aware of the brutality that has now become an annual winter event, held in the same picturesque locations where they picnic or hike with their friends and family. As you know, NPS is now in the sixth year of what was originally sold to the public as a three-year lethal deer reduction operation for which NPS had secured funding.”

Whitetail buck near Fire Island Lighthouse. Photo by Craig Low.

Fire Island National Seashore has also published a FAQ sheet which also includes information about their deer management program which includes outreach & education, as well as research articles which can be found at: