NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An invasive grass is growing out of control on Staten Island.

One local politician is blaming the large deer population for allowing Japanese stiltgrass to take hold, CBS2’s Nick Caloway reported Monday.

Thanks to the pesky weed, the health of forests in the borough could be in danger. Take the situation at Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve, for example. The Japanese stiltgrass has taken over much of the forest floor, replacing the natural vegetation.

Borough President James Oddo said the booming deer population on Staten Island is to blame. As deer graze on natural vegetation, the Japanese stiltgrass replaces it. But the deer don’t like to eat the stiltgrass, so it grows out of control.

Oddo said he fears those forests could be damaged beyond repair.

“This is a problem that will have an impact not for a year or 10 years,” Oddo said. “You will wipe out plants species and you will wipe out echo systems.”

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Deputy Borough President Ed Burke said the balance of nature on Staten Island is out of whack.

“There should be so many deer, and the forest thrives. But once it’s out of balance and there’s too many deer, then everything goes out of balance,” Burke said.

Burke said a healthy deer population should be less than 15 per square mile. Staten Island could have more than 42 deer per square mile.

Oddo is calling for the city and state to do more to protect forests from deer, with everything from fencing to protecting native plants, to the more controversial idea of a cull — to have hunters reduce the population.

“It probably would be a bow cull,” Oddo said.

In the meantime, the city and state are managing the impact that invasive species like Japanese stiltgrass have on forests.

A New York City Parks forestry expert told CBS2 in the battle between native and invasive species, the invasive plants are winning, and the problem is getting worse.

Oddo is hosting a public forum on the topic on Nov. 19. Experts will talk to the public about the ecological impacts of invasive plant species and the deer population.


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