Buck v. Cornell: Three Generations of White Tail Deer Is Enough

October 16th, 2014

In Buck v. Bell, the Supreme Court sanctioned the state performing tubal ligation surgeries on undesirable persons. Now, in Buck v. Cornell, the Ivy League college is performing tubal ligation on undesirable deer. Three generation of white tail deer is enough!

The Washington Post reports on Cornell’s ineffective methods of sterilizing deer in an effort to cull the surging deer population.

Typically, a deer boom is dealt with through hunting. Often, sharpshooting riflemen or archers are brought in to bait the animals into zones where shots can safely be taken. Cornell’s administrators took a different approach: They chose to experiment with sterilizing many of the wild deeron campus while allowing periodic hunting on nearby land — and the result was something that nobody anticipated.

Washington’s deer population has surged in recent years, particularly in Rock Creek Park, where last year an estimated 335 deer lived.

Much like Carrie Buck, the deer had their fallopian tubes cut:

The method of contraception chosen by Cornell was tubal ligation, in which a doe’s fallopian tubes are either blocked or severed. This prevents egg cells from reaching the uterus. Unlike chemical forms of birth control, tubal ligation is typically permanent and avoids the expense of capturing the same deer each year to maintain their infertility. At a cost of roughly $1,200 per deer, 77 does were captured and sterilized though tubal ligation. (Without the help of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, the costs would have been higher.)

But it didn’t work! How can it be that the population increased after performing tubal ligation on the deer?!

Bucks and does form temporary pairs for a few days in order to mate. Bucks can travel for miles to seek out does in heat, which means that a large number of females would need to be targeted for sterilization. …

Under normal conditions, all female whitetails go into heat within several weeks of each other and become pregnant at around the same time. This annual event is called the rut. However, if a doe is not impregnated during the rut, it will enter heat again the following month and again the month after that. Because the ligated does were unable to become pregnant, they continued to produce chemical signals of readiness to reproduce — signals that can attract bucks from miles away.

By preventing pregnancy in does, Cornell had accidentally invented a population of buck magnets that regularly drew in new deer from the surrounding area.

And, here’s the kicker–even deer that were sterilized still managed to give birth. So they gave them ovariectomies! And that still didn’t work! How is this even possible?

Cornell has begun experiments with ovary removal in deer, but Curtis’s team has already had a surprise.

“Three of the 77 tubal ligation deer gave birth to fawns,” Curtis said. “These three deer were recaptured and later were given ovariectomies. All three had ovarian anomalies, and at least one experienced tissue regrowth post-surgery.”

Even after the surgical removal of their ovaries, one of the three deer became pregnant again. It is not clear how this was possible. One supposition is that some ovarian tissue may have escaped the scalpel and regrown into a functioning ovary.

If we learned nothing from, Jurassic Park, we can’t dinosaurs, and deer, from reproducing. As Jeff Goldblum said, life finds a way.


I have an idea. Invite Justices Scalia and Kagan to Cornell Law School, and they’ll take care of the excess population, and entertain the students. Boom. (Pun intended).