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CARE Tour - 5

Compassion for Animals Road Expeditions #5
Anti-hunting activist will plead case for deer

Posted: Saturday, Aug 11, 2007 - 12:47:19 am CDT

By Ashley Rhodebeck Daily News staff writer Controlling the deer population may not mean the animals have to be killed.

“It is up to the people to say no, we don't want bloodshed in our city. We want a gentler solution,” said anti-hunting activist Anthony Marr, who is set to speak about non-lethal methods during a deer seminar at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in Leeson Park on Milwaukee Road.

The event is sponsored by the Wisconsin Animal Education Network, and is open to the public.

When faced with too many deer, many agencies - including those in Rock County - rely on killing the creatures.

Brian Buenzow, the area's DNR wildlife manager, said the state's standing herd totals between 1.3 and 1.5 million, of which about 500,000 are harvested yearly through gun hunters, bow hunters and vehicle accidents. Without those kills, Buenzow said, “We'd really be up to our eyeballs in deer.”

In Rock County, officials aim to keep the winter deer population to 15 per square miles of deer habitat, which amounts to about 260-square miles of woody and marshy areas, Buenzow said. But, he continued, the county is significantly above that goal.

“It's a tough thing to manage because we just don't go out and take deer out of the population,” Buenzow said. “We ask the hunters to do that.”

But killing deer is the “trigger-happy” solution, Marr said, and it isn't always effective.

Alternatives should be considered, Marr said, such as injecting does with a $10 vaccine that would make them temporarily infertile. The contraception would be 100 percent effective during the first three years and would drop to 80 percent in year five, he explained, adding the deer population would decline by 10 to 20 percent.

Killing the deer won't achieve the same results because of the compensatory rebound effect, Marr claimed. He explained with this example: Say there are 10 does slightly exceeding the carrying capacity of its land. Because of the resource pinch, only three become pregnant with a fawn. At the year's end there would be 13 deer. Killing five of the 10 won't help, Marr said, because the remainders would each have fawns - and three would birth two - making the population 13.

“That tells us that even if you kill up to half the deer's population they will recover,” Marr said.

Deer-vehicle accidents could also be reduced by building fences along the stretches of road near dear habitats. Proper fencing can reduce those accidents by 95 percent, Marr asserted, whereas killing half a deer herd would reduce the collisions by only 25 percent.

Humans could also improve their interactions with deer, Marr said. If the creatures continually nip tulips, plant other species for the deer to dine on or purchase deer repellents or fences.

Using just one of the non-lethal methods won't work, Marr said, but combining the techniques should produce results.

“There are too many deer in Wisconsin,” said Brian Buenzow, the area's DNR wildlife manager. “It's not a question - it's a fact.”

Indeed, when Buenzow started his job in 1981 about 600 animals were harvested yearly in Rock County. Now, he said, it regularly tops 2,000.

Although the Rock County deer population is more than what officials would like, Buenzow said it's still better than other parts of the state, such as the area between Madison, Green Bay and La Crosse. High deer populations effect the environment, such as eating ground plants to the point where they can't grow and reproduce or eating seedling oak trees so the forest can't replenish itself.

Deer populations depend on habitat limitations in the north, but Buenzow said the amount in southern Wisconsin depends on how much interference people will tolerate, such as crop damage and car-deer accidents.

Besides controlling the population, killing deer helps control the Chronic Wasting Disease from spreading. The disease, which is comparable to mad cow disease, has been present in Rock County since 2003, Buenzow said, naming Clinton and Turtle townships as the infected areas. He added, DNR sharpshooters work to reduce the diseased herd much lower than the 15-deer target.

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