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Oh, deer; kill 'em all?

  1. Feb 16, 2005 #1
    Road & Track has recently published an article talking about the cancerous deer over-population problem, and how it may partly be caused by suburban sprawl. Might the problem be solved by exterminating the North American deer population? Here are some excerpts from the article:
    http://www.roadandtrack.com/article.asp?section_id=26&article_id=1867&page_number=3


     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2005
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  3. Feb 17, 2005 #2

    Moonbear

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    This is certainly not a new problem, and during the Fall rut, becomes an even bigger problem as bucks are busy chasing does rather than watching the traffic.

    Suburban areas are the perfect habitat for deer. Lightly wooded areas for cover on the edge of open lawns for grazing, along with that wonderfully tasty smorgasbord people set out for them (gardens). Most of their natural predators have been eradicated in these areas as well, and their less natural predator (hunters with firearms) aren't allowed to hunt in these areas, so it provides them quite a nice refuge.

    Most people notice the problem when they end up in a collision between the deer and their car, but the overpopulation of deer is also damaging habitats for other species of plants and animals that live among low brush (if you walk through most woodlands, for at least the past 10 years or so, the deer browse lines have been pretty apparent).

    So, what do we do about it? If we try to organize controlled hunts with special licenses in areas usually off-limits to hunting, the animal rights protesters show up to harrass the hunters and game officials.

    So far, we've also had no success developing any sort of contraceptives for the deer (I found out recently that the lab I used to work in has shut down its deer research program because it was getting too expensive and not going anywhere). The problem is targeting enough deer to actually reduce the population. If we do something with a single dose, then someone needs to go out and dart deer with whatever is going to be used (it wouldn't be something that could be delivered orally if it's going to last an entire breeding season), and if it's something orally given, how do we ensure they get daily dosing and aren't overdosing or underdosing, etc? And, we need to give something that won't also act as a contraceptive in other species, so most of the usual methods are out. These were the problems we were facing in trying to develop these methods.

    One approach that was "hot" for a while was to immunize does against proteins found in sperm so that their immune system would attack sperm before they could fertilize eggs. That didn't work out either. In all these cases, delivery of the contraceptive remains the biggest obstacle. About all that was accomplished on that while I was in the lab was a recipe for an apple juice cocktail that didn't freeze in winter while remaining palatable (we were using it to bait the deer and hoping to use it for oral delivery of contraceptives back when we thought that approach might work, but one deer would find it and guzzle it down until the feeder was empty, and none was left for the others).

    So, my answer? Do whatever you want with them, just don't make me get near them anymore. I've had my share of bruises from working with deer (my boyfriend at the time was sure someone was going to show up and arrest him for abusing me based on the number and severity of bruises and injuries I would have at any given time); they're definitely not sweet little Bambi when you need to work with them in close quarters. Though, I think the concept of exterminating the entire population to be extreme and fool-hardy; they are part of an ecosystem. Their population does need to be cut back quite a bit though, because they're doing more harm than good right now.
     
  4. Feb 17, 2005 #3

    DocToxyn

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    There are additional problems, beyond those involving motor vehicle accidents, which have come about because of the overcrowded deer situation. Too many animals in a confined area, such as a city park, and not enough food leads to suffering and starvation. Also, any time you get too many of one species together the chance for population-wide disease also crops up. Currently there is a condition called Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) that is affecting elk, mule and whitetail deer. It is similar to scrapie, Mad Cow and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease and results in spongiform damage to the brain and death. Since deer are so ubiquitous, the spread of this disease may be more rapid and less controllable then if "normal" population conditions existed.

    The root problem with deer populations is their disconnect from predators, either natural or human. Their acceptance of suburban life has removed them from typical population control and the result is elevated numbers. As Moonbear points out, very few, if any, non-lethal options exist. Hunting can work, but only in areas where hunting is safe/legal, thus "urban deer" are not taken. The only remaining option is culling, and not by the media circus events that pit hunters against animal rights activists as Moonbear states. Professional culling teams can take out large numbers of deer in a safe, controlled manner using small-caliber magnum rounds that pose little risk to surrounding humans. It may not be a perfect solution, but it can be effectively used to reduce deer numbers in urban areas and if done properly can also provide a valuable food source to people in need.
     
  5. Feb 17, 2005 #4

    Moonbear

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    To continue on this theme, since I was writing rapidly without proofreading last night, so certainly left a lot out, in addition to CWD, deer share other diseases that can infect livestock and humans. Tuberculosis is the one that immediately comes to mind as being able to infect both. When I worked closely with them, I had to get TB testing done on the same frequency that hospital workers potentially exposed to infectious patients need to get tested. Other infections are primarily a concern for livestock, especially dairy cattle where any infection means just throwing out the milk. Clostridial infections are pretty common among deer.

    DocToxyn, even those professional culling teams meet with resistance and protestors. Nobody wants anyone out shooting anything in their backyards. Of course, anyone living in heavily wooded suburban areas knows that a week into deer season, all the deer are hanging out in their backyards for refuge, so if you don't allow hunting on those properties (by hunting, I don't necessarily refer to weekend hobbyists, but would include sending marksmen given special permits by Fish Game and Wildlife for the purpose of just killing as many deer as possible, not trophy hunting). Even the hunting rules have changed in many states to address the problem. It used to be hunters would go out and bag one buck and take their venison and trophy antlers home. Now they are being encouraged to shoot as many does as possible before going after their trophy.

    However, DocToxyn, in your last sentence you mention providing a valuable food source. There's a problem with that as well. Currently, you can't donate game for distribution to the poor and hungry, unless rules have changed and I'm unaware of it. Because the deer are wild and can potentially carry diseases and parasites, and are never slaughtered at a USDA approved facility, you're allowed to risk your own health eating the meat, but you are not allowed to risk spreading food-borne illness to other people by donating it. It's a real shame, because it seems it wouldn't be too unreasonable to freeze the meat and hold it while waiting for it to be tested prior to distribution.

    Unchecked, we're going to get to watch first-hand the principles of population ecology and carrying capacity in our own backyards (it's there all the time, but we don't often witness species hitting the carrying capacity of their habitat due to unchecked growth, and deer dying of starvation and disease are going to be hard to miss noticing).
     
  6. Feb 17, 2005 #5

    dextercioby

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    Shall i understand that u have a problem with overpopulation of deer...?It can be fixed...Since probably the wolves left cannot cope with the huge herds of deer and u guys are probably too lazy to hunt'em down,try to import some 3m,300Kg Siberian tigers...They have a spacial taste for deer meat.

    Daniel.
     
  7. Feb 17, 2005 #6

    DocToxyn

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    I agree that the professional cullers have met with resistance, but I would think that it can be done in a way to minimize such entanglements. Obviously the local landowners must be informed of the activities, but set the date as a broad range and say that at some time within the next months a shooter will begin culling. Activists take time to rally and the job could be over before the protesting starts. As far as safety, this plan is much safer that having a large group of hunters do it as they are professional marksmen who identify targets before shooting and there are far fewer of them in the field at one time. There will never be a perfect way to do this, just better ways for particular circumstances, it won't work everywhere. Also, most states are indeed allowing a much larger take by hunters than previous years. I know of an individual who legally collected at least a dozen deer this year.

    You're right that in most cases the meat is not handled properly to allow distribution to the public, however that shouldn't be too hard to overcome if proper planning is in place. I guess the biggest hurdle would be getting someone to do that, which in terms of politics and public policy means it may be technically possible to do, but realistically impossible to implement. I do remember reading about culling of canada goose populations (another successful urban species) where the meat was distributed to the needy, it may have actually been in Canada though, so, as you say, USDA may be more restrictive.

    I will be interesting to see if the confrontation between humans and starving deer will have an impact on this issue. How can you be concerned about animal rights and at the same time condone management (or mismanagement) of a species that leads to suffering and death?
     
  8. Feb 17, 2005 #7

    BobG

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    Yes, but do they also have a taste for cats and dogs? Mountain lions snacking on the family pets are a problem in some parts of my city. You have to just love the warning signs in the parks, though. If a mountain lion attacks your dog while you're walking it, you're not supposed to interfere. Oh, and you're supposed to let go of the leash, too.

    I have to admit, though. Looking out the bedroom window and watching a lion or tiger devour a deer in the backyard would be a pretty unforgettable nature lesson for the kids.
     
  9. Feb 17, 2005 #8

    dextercioby

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    I don't know,man,don't u think u overreacted a bit the with the industrialization-urbanization thing...?Leave some MORE room to the wildlife...

    And yes,i admit it sounds interesting:a dog eaten by a (larger) cat... :devil:

    Daniel.
     
  10. Feb 17, 2005 #9
    Not to change the subject, but I can think of an even worse population problem.... HUMANS. They're everywhere! I can hardly walk down the street without seeing a hundred of em. But seriously, I've heard from many of my professors, that if the population rate doesn't slow down drastically and soon, we could be faced with some severe problems.
     
  11. Feb 21, 2005 #10

    DocToxyn

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    I guess I was a little too pessimistic on this one. I talked to some hunters this weekend and after a quick google search I found programs such as the venison donation coalition in New York State and similar programs in other states including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which have donated hundreds of thousands of pounds of deer meat to food distribution programs for the needy. The rules state that the meat must be processed by a recognized meat handler and there are many of those in our area, specifically during deer season. I'm not sure if every state has a program like this, but if tied in with deer control/management issues, it seems to be a great way to tackle both problems and have everyone (even the deer population as a whole) come out better.

    I also read an article in my latest Outdoor Life about urban hunting and its increased popularity. Using a bow to take deer will likely decrease the risk/disturbance to surrounding humans as compared to firearms.
     
  12. Feb 22, 2005 #11
    Bow hunting vs 30-06

    How might that be?
    http://www.animalliberationfront.com/Practical/Fishing--Hunting/Hunting/Hunting Realities.htm

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    "Under most hunting conditions, it is generally difficult to shoot a razor-sharp broadhead arrow into a vital area-- an absolute must for bow hunting proficiency. Data from Texas wildlife management areas provide evidence that, on average, 21 shots are made for every deer killed, or about 10 shots per deer hit. Shot placement is, for all practical purposes, random."
    --
     
  13. Feb 22, 2005 #12
    I know where i live, near Akron, the city of Akron had actually passed an ordinance allow snipers to kill deer in the park area because they were overpopulating. The snipers were profession dear hunters using powerful and very accurate sniping rifles, so they rarely miss, which was important because the areas were sometimes not to far from homes, at least, within rifle range of homes. My econ teacher is on the city council that voted for the bill and was actually sent a death threat for voting for the bill, aparently this is a very controversial issues with some people. I never knew it was such, the way it is in suburban northern ohio, you either shoot them, or you kill them with your car, it is really up to you.

    ~Lyuokdea
     
  14. Feb 22, 2005 #13
    The deer scourge and the threat it poses to human life and welfare

    It is not always just the deer that dies in a car-deer collision:
    http://espn.go.com/outdoors/conservation/s/c_fea_deer_car_damage_wire.html

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    Some 150 people die each year in more than 1.5 million traffic accidents involving collisions with deer
    --


    Motorcyclists and bicyclists are even more at risk:
    http://groups-beta.google.com/group/rec.motorcycles/search?q=deer&qt_g=1
    http://groups-beta.google.com/group/rec.bicycles.misc/search?q=deer&qt_g=1


    And deer kill even more humans by spreading disease:
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=deer+lyme
     
  15. Feb 22, 2005 #14

    DocToxyn

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    My statement said: "Using a bow to take deer will likely decrease the risk/disturbance to surrounding humans as compared to firearms." In other words, a bow is much quieter than a gun and the range over which the projectile carries sufficient force to be effective (lethal) is considerably less than a rifle or shotgun. Thus surrounding people are less likely to be disturbed by noise and/or placed at risk.

    I make no statements as to the efficacy of this hunting method which is purely up to the skill of the hunter and should only be attempted when said skill level is sufficient to do the job.
     
  16. Feb 22, 2005 #15
    SOmeone earlier in the thread mentioned rutting bucks chasing after doe as a health threat to humans becasue they ignore cars (car/dear collision). Don't they (bucks) also get rather territorial/protective during a rutting season and therby the potential of him seeing you as competition and trying to run you off?
     
  17. Feb 22, 2005 #16
    No, thanks for mentioning that I was going to, and it completely skipped my mind, there was a person in our city two years ago killed in a collision with a deer.

    ~Lyuokdea
     
  18. Feb 22, 2005 #17

    Moonbear

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    Actually, the connection between deer and Lyme disease has been over-exaggerated. The ticks do infest deer, but it's deer mice that are the primary carriers of Lyme disease that the ticks are picking up. This is going to be a tough one to prove by a few quick links provided by google because those in favor of reducing the deer population haven't exactly tried too hard to refute this and have even perpetuated the exaggeration.

    The car collisions do remain a real risk.

    I agree with others here who have pointed out the poor accuracy of bow hunting. I'd much rather have a sniper sitting in my backyard taking out deer than a bow hunter. Despite the noise, the sniper is going to be more accurate and more efficient, thus animal suffering will be minimized (I'm all for the quickest, most painless option available, and I think a sniper's bullet is far better than starvation or disease as a way for the deer to die).

    The problem that remains is there will always be those animal rights activists in any community who refuse to accept that shooting the deer is better than letting them die of starvation and will cause a ruckus blocking any action from being taken. I don't agree that giving a vague time frame would be a good idea. Very specific dates would be the safest way to go, because then people would know to keep the kids indoors on those days to be extra safe. I know I'd want that option if it was my neighborhood and I had kids to watch out for. Even better, do it during school hours when most people are at work and the kids are in school, so very few people around to disturb with either the noise or any potential stray bullets (and well-trained marksmen (and women :wink:) would be absolutely essential).
     
  19. Feb 23, 2005 #18

    DocToxyn

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    I'm not suggesting that bow hunters set up a stand on anyone's roof, it's still hunting, just not in the middle of nowhere and there are huge differences between culling by a marks(wo)man and hunting. Basic safety rules for hunting still would apply, such as at least 500 yards distance from any residence. I will also agree that bowhunting can be more difficult than firearm use, thus extensive training and practice is a must. There are many successful bow hunters out there and they follow simple rules such as don't take shots you can't make (anything beyond 20 yrds is too far). It's the responsibility of the hunting community to teach this and unfortunately its not reaching everyone :frown: .

    On another note, one thing I found common to many of the statements put out by animal rights/anti-hunting groups was that hunting actually causes population increases by decreasing resource competition pressure and increasing fecundity and survival of offspring. The groups "more natural" solution was to let the population stabilize to where resources alone were determining number, thus the weak or deprived will starve. While this may be true, they also propose that population control measures should also be pursued. Immunocontraception, such as PZP, was their main choice and they put forth evidence that it is a usable option. My questions are won't this reduction in population via reduced reproductive rate also result in the same endpoint as hunter kills? The only way I can see that it wouldn't would be if practically every reproductive female was inoculated, how can that be done? Also, they put forth a lot of evidence that these methods have been tested and work, is that true Moonbear, anyone?

    Finally, if I understand it correctly, this treatment shouldn't disrupt normal behavior/physiology such as estrous cycling and breeding, it just stops fertilization. However if the females don't become pregnant, would they continue to cycle and would this extend the rutting season and put more stress on males. I not sure if the rut is a reaction to female cycling or an independent event driven by seasonal cues (or probably both), or if the females only cycle one per year at specific a time. Any help?
     
  20. Feb 23, 2005 #19

    Moonbear

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    The females cycle from approximately mid-September through, if I recall correctly, late January. There is always some degree of variation, such that there could be females that cycle beginning in August and/or ending in February or March. We only have information for this from captive populations, otherwise most females are pregnant by October or November in the wild. The breeding season is determined by seasonal cues, so it's not likely to extend the season for females beyond when they are normally capable of cycling, except that by not getting pregnant, they will cycle longer than if they got pregnant on their first or second cycle of the season, which is what usually happens. Males usually have a breeding season longer than that of the females, to ensure they are fully fertile when the females are in season (it takes a little more time for them to undergo testicular recrudescence).

    I haven't checked recent literature to find out the status of PZP innoculation. Last I recall, there was evidence it works in captive populations, but the problem remained how to get enough of the reproductive-aged females innoculated to be effective in actually reducing the population. I also don't know how long it lasts. If you are giving it to enough of the population to really reduce numbers, then it better be reversible as well, or you risk a bottleneck effect from those few fawns born inbreeding too much. And, I agree, it would have the same net result as shooting them, just it might take a few years longer to see the population reduction as fawns aren't born to replace the older deer who die off. The animal rights groups will promote anything that doesn't offend their touchy-feely concerns about hunting, which have nothing to do with what's best for the deer or the environment they inhabit.

    The trouble with hunting distances of 500 yards from residences is in the suburban areas where deer are hanging out, the houses are all closer together than 500 yards. Deer overpopulation is really a man-made problem. Our suburban sprawl and removal of their predators really has contributed to the problem. Allowing them to eat everything around them and then die of starvation when their habitat is decimated is not natural for them, predators should be keeping their population down before that happens, not to mention the number of other species they will take with them if they are allowed to destroy their habitats. Instead of having wolves and bobcats killing them, we have hunters to do that job now.
     
  21. Feb 23, 2005 #20

    Moonbear

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    Here's a USDA report on the status of PZP studies:
    http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ws/nwrc/research/reproductive_control/pzp.html

    It seems the biggest problem is those deer who have antibody titers drop before the end of the breeding season and end up having fawning later than normal, which would translate into fawns that are too young to have built up sufficient fat reserves to survive the following winter (they don't explain that's why late fawning is a problem, I've added that). They indicate the rut also was unusually long. The deer began cycling in November (I was a little off on that in my previous post) and continued through March.

    It sounds like quite a hassle, as they needed to immobilize each deer individually to give them their shots and eartag them so they know which ones have already been vaccinated. Not too practical for a truly free-ranging population.
     
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