Sunday, December 19, 2004

Too Late for Greenwich's Deer-Killing Program?

Greenwich might be too late to get the necessary Connecticut DEP approval for its plan to hire sharpshooters to kill deer in three town preserves in February 2005.

"State officials said they want to take their time with this application because Greenwich would be the first municipality in Connecticut to seek to kill deer through means besides licensed hunting and trapping," the Greenwich Time reported.

Connecticut passed a law in 2003 that lets municipalities apply to the state for permission to kill deer, although "cull" is the word everyone seems to prefer.

Greenwich is hiring a non-profit company called White Buffalo, based in Hamden, Connecticut, to do the culling. Iowa City, Iowa, first hired White Buffalo in 1999, and Princeton, N.J., hired them for a four-year deer-reduction program that ended last winter.

The Washington Post quoted Anthony J. DeNicola, a biologist who runs White Buffalo:

"He advises communities to tag, mark and vaccinate the most approachable deer in a target population 'and kill all the others.' "

According to a newspaper called The Princeton Packet, White Buffalo worked on both private and public land in Princeton. In addition to using contraceptives, they

"...cull the deer at bait sites using sharpshooters as well as drop nets and captive-bolt guns to capture and kill the animals. Captive bolting is a slaughterhouse method that kills with a retractable metal bolt to an animal's head."

White Buffalo has a website, but its down now. My Google searches turned up a number of letters to the editor etcetera from opponents of the deer-killing programs, who argued that killing deer inevitably leads to population increases, and that if left alone, deer populations will stabilize.

I tend to doubt that a broad, sustained hunting program will lead to a population increase in the short term, although it's probably true that the hunting program will have to be repeated at regular intervals. And I my guess is that if deer populations stabilize by themselves, they stabilize at a level that is harmful to biodiversity, not to mention dangerous to motorists.

I would be interested in hearing some opinions from qualified biologists -- and by qualified, I mean people who know what they're talking about and don't have an obvious pro-hunting or animal rights ax to grind.


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