STATEN ISLAND — An aerial survey found 266 fewer deer living in Staten Island than last year, but officials warned it doesn't necessarily mean the population has decreased.
In February, the Parks Department conducted a second aerial survey that expanded to include the entire borough, instead of just focusing on parkland, the Staten Island Advance first reported.
The latest survey found only 527 white-tailed deer in the borough, down from the 793 found in parkland in 2014, according to the Parks Department.
"The aerial surveys conducted in 2014 and 2016 confirmed that deer are present on Staten Island and illustrated expanding patterns of distribution, providing data necessary to the City’s deer management strategy," a spokeswoman for the agency said in a statement.
However, the Parks Department said that it hadn't found evidence of deer dying off or migrating out of Staten Island and the numbers don't mean the population has decreased.
The survey only gives a minimum population number for deer and the planes have a better chance of spotting the animals when flying on cloudy days, which they did in 2014. In 2016, the surveys were done on days with clear skies, Parks said.
Staten Island's deer population exploded in the past several year, up from just 28 in 2008.
The increase in deer has lead to an increase in Lyme disease numbers over the past three years and there have been 26 deer-related car crashes so far this year, an increase over the previous year, the Parks Department said.
Aside from sterilization, the city's plan also calls for other non-lethal methods to curb the population, including public education campaigns to reduce car crashes and tick-borne illnesses.