Without a doubt, the biggest and hottest wildlife issue concerns deer
“management”. Biggest because well over 10 million deer were killed by
hunters in 2006, plus another 1 million died in deer-vehicle accidents (DVAs)
which also involve human fatalities, plus the fact that massive culling
of urban and suburban deer is spreading like wildfire across the land.
And hottest because the 30-states-in-5-months (July-December)
Compassion for Animals
Road Expedition #5 (CARE-5
or Deer Tour) of Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE) is making it
The first point I make here can cause wide-spread controversy and
confrontation between hunters and anti-hunters. Hunters blame deer
overpopulation for causing the DVAs as justification for the massive
killing of deer in the eyes of the non-hunting yet safety-conscious
public, but I contend that the DVAs are at least in part deliberately
caused by none other than the hunters themselves.
Although only 6% of the American public hunt, they still amount to
millions of deer hunters. To ensure themselves of enough deer to hunt,
they use feed plots in the wild to artificially boost the deer
population to “overpopulation” levels, which then causes high DVA rates.
Not only this. Ask any major insurance company what day of the year
has the highest DVA rate, and you will likely be told that it is the
opening day of the deer hunting season, and that the two months of the
hunting season account for about half of the year’s DVA total.
It is circular logic, by hunters, for hunters. Unfortunately, the
public usually sees only one segment of the circle, namely that there is
a high DVA rate and therefore deer hunting is a necessary evil. Most
have never even heard of feed plots.
Even fewer have heard of New Jersey’s recently challenged “Title 13”,
which stipulated that of the eleven voting members of the Fish and Game
council, at least seven must be “sportsmen”, i.e. hunters. It is hunting
policy by hunters, for hunters.
The second point to be made here will likely arouse an even greater
consternation, because the deer killings occur not somewhere out beyond
the mountains, but right in a neighbor’s backyard, when children are
coming home from school or in the middle of the night. The people are
told that there too is a deer overpopulation problem, and that culling
is the only way to go. Seeing no viable non-lethal alternative, they
abide in resignation, even though they abhor the practice.
The culling occur in one of three ways: by sharpshooting over bait,
trap-and-bolt, or bow-hunting.
Sharpshooting: e.g., the city of Solon, Ohio, population only 30,000,
spent over $500,000 in 2003/2004 to cull 1,000 deer by professional
sharpshooter. In 2006, they had to shoot again.
Trap-and-Bolt: by which a 4” steel bolt is fired into the brain of
the deer. Sounds simple, but it is not. Bolting is the way by which cows
and pigs are killed. Deer are not quite so docile. They thrash around,
sometimes breaking their legs in the process, and the bolts hit them in
the nose, in the face, in the eyes... Video evidence has it that a
net-trapped deer took minutes to die.
Bow hunting: a cruel method even on the standard of hunting, where
the wounding rate is some 55%, meaning that for every 100 arrow-shot
deer, 55 stagger around with arrows imbedded in some non-vital area, for
days, weeks, even months. Another stat says that for every deer killed
by an arrow, 17 arrows would have been shot, which begs the question as
to where the other 16 went.
It is not that non-lethal deer management methods do not exist. There
are deer repellents and deer deterrents and fence types and
contraception and relocation technologies in abundance. Proper fencing
of a high DVA roadway can reduce the DVAs by over 95%, whereas even if
50% of a deer herd is culled, the DVAs can be reduced by little more
And it is not that culling really works in reducing deer population.
Consider is the Compensatory Rebound Effect, by which a sudden increase
in food resources due to a sudden decrease in the population induces a
high reproductive rate. A culled deer herd can regain full strength in
1-3 years. This necessitates repeated culling, which of course is good
for the culler. On the other hand, the fence, once built will last 25
years, so it is much more economical in the long run.
The hunting and culling industries maintain that even non-lethal
strategies must have lethal components, specifically, that even if the
immunocontraception technologies are commercially available, the herd
must first be culled down to the desired level before contraception can
take over. Not so. Today’s proven one-shot/multi-year techniques can
achieve a zero reproductive rate for at least three years. Within 4-5
years, the population will have declined by natural causes to the
desired level, when limited fertility can then resume. In the mean time,
the initially overpopulated deer can be sustained by feeding to
alleviate the pressure on the environment. These technologies have
reached a point of maturity where general certification by the
Environmental Protection Agency is imminent (probably in 2008).
The lethal methods have been riding on delaying the certification,
that is, delaying the inevitable. Their days are numbered. The Deer Tour
will exert whatever power at its disposal to hasten their demise.
Anthony Marr, founder
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)