A white-tailed deer whose fate became entangled in a day-long feud between New York City and state offices died Friday from the stress of captivity, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation said.
The one-antlered buck named Lefty died while awaiting potential transportation upstate, said Eric Phillips, a spokesman for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Its death came after an extraordinary political tussle between the city and state over whether to transfer the deer upstate or euthanize it.
"Unfortunately the deer has died due to stress," said Sam Biederman, a spokesman for the parks department. "This is why the city's preference in this circumstance was humane euthanasia rather than subjecting the animal to the stress of transportation and relocation."
The city announced plans on Thursday to kill the deer, which was captured at the Polo Grounds Towers in Harlem that morning and taken to a nearby animal shelter. His presence at a nearby park had drawn crowds for weeks.
That was when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo stepped in, hours after de Blasio had announced plans to euthanize the deer. A spokesman for Cuomo said that the state's Department of Environmental Conservation had advised the city that there were alternative options to euthanasia. Cuomo's spokesman said he had directed the DEC to "offer assistance to the City to transport and find a new habitat for it immediately."
The city initially held to its original position, even as de Blasio came under increasing fire. On a radio show Friday, he was asked by a Twitter user whether it was "really necessary" to have the deer killed. He argued, based on information he received from city officials, that relocating the deer could actually be more traumatizing in the long run for the deer.
"You take, like any other creature that is used to a certain environment," he said. "You put them in a new environment even in nature. It's traumatizing. It creates all sorts of extended pain and usually leads to death. So I think this is a case where it's a really bad situation, unfortunately, if a deer ends up in the middle of an urban area and it's nothing any of us want. But, I think it's a question of is it going to be a quick and merciful death versus a potentially and very long, painful process."
A few hours later, however, the city's parks department relented and said it would allow the state to transport the animal.
"Due to the stress caused by travel and low survival rates of relocated deer, we believe euthanasia is the most humane option. But we defer to the state as the regulatory authority on wildlife," Biederman said.
Sean Mahar, a spokesman for the DEC, suggested that the state department had moved in to transport the deer.
"After repeated attempts to provide the city with alternative options to euthanasia, including relocation, the state is securing the safe transport of the deer to suitable habitat upstate in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Unit," he said.
The feud between the city and state was yet another example of the at-times astonishing tussling between de Blasio and Cuomo, who often inserts himself into city affairs. Cuomo and de Blasio aides publicly sniped at each other as the city and state worked out what to do with the deer.
"NYC isn't going to kill Harlem deer. State trying to transport it safely upstate. Inconsistent w/ experts/DEC policy, but we'll try & help," Eric Phillips, a spokesman for de Blasio, wrote on Twitter as the city gave in to the state's request.
"Bureaucracy lost," Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo, shot back.
"Let's hope for the deer's sake you're right," Phillips replied.
Bill Hyers, de Blasio's former campaign manager, wrote on Twitter: "Andrew Cuomo is an idiot."