Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
28 July 1999 Issue

Hunters and The Overpopulation Excuse
By [email protected]

Early in the century, when hunters were allowed to kill animals at will, year 'round, the population of deer was decimated. In 1904 Aldo Leupold, a famous conservationist, predicted that deer would be extinct by 1920. Deer hunting was ended, and the herds made a slow but gradual comeback as the habitat allowed.

In the late 1940's deer hunting was again allowed in limited areas on a very limited basis. The hunters discovered herd manipulation to increase herds and hunting opportunities. And proceeded to implement regulations to produce lopsided sex ratios to increase herd size. Deer are polygamous. One buck can easily breed 10-20 does, so hunters concentrated on killing bucks, and left the does for breeding.

At the same time they did, and still do, wage war on the natural predators of deer. Wolves, coyotes, etc.

The deer herds have responded. Populations have exploded and hunters have targets like never before, yet their activity does not curtail the population which keeps growing due to their "management".

In many areas the male/female sex ratio is as high as 11 does to one buck, yet the young are born at a 50/50 rate. Up to 90% of the bucks from a herd can be removed every year without affecting the population for the next year. Hunters have discovered this and use it to their advantage. When the hunting fun is over, the rest of us are left with an overpopulation to destroy crops, damage cars, and. yes, even starve. Hunters and their manipulation are, in fact, the cause of today's overpopulation problems.

Any classroom "study" will use arbitrary numbers that don't have basis in fact. The fact is, that despite hunting, the population is exploding. Game departments refuse to investigate alternatives. They refuse to reintroduce predators where they are needed, they refuse to move ahead with oral contraceptives for deer, that have been developed and proven practical and effective. This is because hunters pay for their salaries and they have to protect their "constituency".

Predators could hunt year 'round, contraceptives could be administered as needed to control populations. And people need to accept that we are consuming habitat, and if the carrying capacity of the remaining habitat is exceeded, some deer will die. This is natural and normal. We should not seek to kill deer because they MIGHT starve to death.

Hunters also use the argument that without them, deer would perish, even become extinct, yet they use overpopulation as an excuse. It cannot be both ways.

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