Does Killing Deer Improve Their Health?

This is the tenth in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Assertion 10: “A reduced/better managed deer population would…Improve the overall health of the deer population…” [page 43]

In what perverse moral universe do we improve the overall health of a population by killing some of them and wounding or crippling as many as we kill?

“Improved health” when applied to free-living animals is hunter-speak for improved fertility. It creates more animals, not fewer, which is exactly the opposite of the stated goal of the task force.

Killing a father, mother, son, daughter, brother, or sister disrupts deer families and causes fear, trauma, stress, and other unhealthy outcomes.

 

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Should Carrboro Abdicate Control to the State?

This is the ninth in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Assertion 9: “The Task Force therefore recommends that Carrboro reopen the consideration of implementing its own deer herd management program to reduce negative impacts on forest regeneration and ecosystem health and biodiversity and protect our forests from an expanding deer population that is too large now and may grow. Specifically, the Task Force recommends that the Town consider submitting a letter of intent to participate in the Urban Archery Season program of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.” [page 42-43]

On April 20, 2010, Ashley Stanford, a resident of 1800 N. Greensboro St., addressed a meeting of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen and asked that Town of Carrboro get on board with resolving the deer problem. He suggested that the town consider allowing dogs to run loose at night.

Mayor Chilton asked if there was anything that could be done about people feeding deer.

The Board directed the town staff to report on what Chapel Hill and Duke Forest are doing to control the deer population, along with pertinent information from the N.C. Wildlife Commission regarding deer.

At the October 12, 2010 Board of Aldermen worksession, the Board received the staff report on options to deal with deer overpopulation, to include management methods (deer resistant plants, deer repellants, and fencing) and population control methods. The Board directed Town staff to keep them informed of any new developments in urban deer management strategies; to provide educational information about deer management methods to community members, including those involved in community gardening; and to prepare a draft ordinance prohibiting the
intentional feeding of deer.

On November 1, 2011, the ordinance prohibiting the intentional feeding of deer was presented and passed. Three non-resident deer killers, one resident deer killer, and the aforementioned deer foe Mr. Stanford, spoke to the board, urging them to institute a deer killing program. At least one brought in his bow for show-and-tell.

So when the Energy and Climate Protection Task force recommended that “Carrboro reopen the consideration of…Urban Archery…,” it’s important to note that the Carrboro Board of Aldermen has never officially considered implementing urban archery.

At the November 10, 2015 meeting during which this recommendation was presented, Alderwoman Michelle Johnson referred to the several previous meetings, including “one where someone brought a bow and an arrow,” and recalled that the police chief had at that time said that bow hunting could not be conducted safely in Carrboro. Jeff Herrick, a member of the task force and Alderwoman Johnson’s husband, replied that “We have a different police chief now and a different mayor….Last time, it was about people’s landscaping and people’s lawns, and now what we’re really concerned about is the long-term health of the forest.”

Alderwoman Johnson asked the town manager to “find out from our current police chief if that [safety concerns about shooting arrows in town limits] is still the case so that we can have an informed discussion about it.”

The recommendation “that the Town consider submitting a letter of intent to participate in the Urban Archery Season program of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission” is particularly troublesome, as this “letter of intent” ruse was exactly how the neighboring town of Chapel Hill was duped into implementing a deer killing program without the express consent of the Council, and before the public had a chance to address the issue.

On January 11, 2010, the Council passed a resolution that, among other things: “The Town seek permission from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission to organize an Urban Archer Program to safely cull the deer population within Chapel Hill. The [Chapel Hill Sustainability] Committee wants this early authorization so that in the event that the Town decides to go forward with such a program, there will not be undue delay in implementing it.”

The letter of intent was submitted by the April 1, 2010 deadline for the 2011 season. The public hearing on deer killing occurred on April 19, 2010. As the Independent Weekly reported:

“Although town officials didn’t know if they wanted a bowhunting program, they still applied by the April 1 deadline to conduct a 2011 urban hunt. They figured that would give them leeway in case they did want to go forward. However, they didn’t know until the forum Monday that their application meant they would be included in a journal as a town that’s friendly to bow hunters.

“Whoops.”

We hope that the members of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen learn from the mistakes of the Chapel Hill Town Council so that there won’t be any “Whoops” in Carrboro. We know that the North Carolina General Assembly has, in recent years, taken many options away from municipalities for making their own choices. We hope that the members of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen retain control of their ability to prohibit the discharge of weapons within town borders and not abdicate that control to the state.

 

Can the NC Wildlife Resources Commission Address All Concerns in Carrboro?

This is the eighth in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Assertion 8: “The NC Wildlife Resources Commission and others are available to advise the Town about the feasibility of creating a program that is tailored to the needs of Carrboro and addresses all concerns.” [page 42]

The NC Wildlife Resources Commission, like all state wildlife agencies, exists for a reason, and it’s not to tailor programs to the needs of Carrboro.

“The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is the state government agency created…to conserve and sustain the state’s fish and wildlife resources…”

This mission (and indeed the very name of the organization) implies that animals exist to be “resources” for humans, assuming an unquestioned belief in the myth of dominionism. But we know that animals have a complex set of interests that do not include a desire to be human property. As Alice Walker famously said, “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.”

And what about the mission to “conserve and sustain the state’s fish and wildlife”? It sounds good, but isn’t it the goal of Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Task Force to reduce the number of deer? “Conserve and sustain” sounds like the opposite of reducing population. In fact, elsewhere on their site, the commission admits that “hunting does not hurt deer populations.”

If we read further on the About page, we find the real reason for the Commissison’s enthusiasm for deer killing: “The sale of hunting and fishing licenses, federal grants and other receipts provide financial support of the agency.  The Commission has an operational budget of approximately $65 million and employs over 590 full-time men and women across the state…”

So the bottom line is that the NC Wildlife Commission has no interest in reducing deer populations in Carrboro or anywhere else. Their mission is to “provide programs and opportunities that allow hunters, anglers, boaters; other outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy wildlife-associated recreation.” In other words, they exist to provide humans the opportunity to kill for fun.

 

Is Urban Archery Safe for Carrboro?

This is the seventh in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Assertion 7: “While culling can be seen as a safety issue, there have been no documented archery related accidents in NC for the past 40 years.” [page 42]

It’s interesting that the Task Force repeats the statistic of “no documented archery related accidents in NC for the past 40 years.” The Urban Archery season has only been around since 2007, starting in smaller communities that are far less densely populated than Carrboro. As of 2016, 58 communities out of 739 in the state are participating, all of them far less densely populated than Carrboro. The communities that participate in Urban Archery season have population densities ranging from 195 people per square mile up to 2,745 people per square mile, with an average population density of 822 people per square mile. Carrboro has a population density of 3,133 people per square mile. It makes absolutely no sense for Carrboro to risk the safety of any of its residents or visitors by joining this foolish experiment called Urban Archery.

Last year, the Village Council in Pinehurst, North Carolina, which has a population density less than half of Carrboro’s, voted against using trained professionals to kill deer on the grounds of safety, and instead implemented sensible non-lethal methods to co-exist with their deer neighbors.

And just because no accidents have been reported so far in North Carolina does not mean that they aren’t happening elsewhere. On November 12, 2015, just two days after the Task Force delivered this report, a 54-year-old hunter in a tree stand in Millsboro, Delaware, shot an arrow that struck a 24-year-old man on the ground about 30 yards away. The injured man was airlifted to two different hospitals before undergoing surgery the following day.

The city council of Ellisville, Missouri wisely voted to put a moratorium on deer hunting after a child found an arrow in his yard.

According to the organization Safe Backyards, “While it is true that accidents with bows and arrows are less common than other forms of hunting, they do happen… Most go unreported, as people remove errant arrows from their yards, homes, garages, etc., without notifying the authorities. There are also deliberate killings with bows and arrows. It’s the prosecutions of these crimes that are rare.”

“One remarkable fact gleaned from the list of hunting accidents is the large number of incidents in which parents killed their children or children killed a parent or other relative…these are devastating traumas that ruin the lives of the survivors and destroy families.”

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission set Saturday, September 26, 2015, as its first annual Youth Deer Hunting Day. On this day, youth under the age of 16 could use any legal weapon to hunt deer of either sex and were not required to be accompanied by an adult if they had completed a hunter education course. The Youth Deer Hunting Day provisions apply to both private and public lands.  What could go wrong?

In January 2010, Chapel Hill Police Lt. Kevin Gunter said, “If an arrow strikes a tree and ricochets, it is a projectile that could cause death or serious injury.”

In October 2010, then-Carrboro Police Chief Carolyn Hutchison reported, “Carrboro is very densely populated and there are very few areas where an urban deer hunt could be safely conducted. Even if the Town were to identify an area in which to hunt, ensuring that the hunt could be safely conducted would be a very difficult task. Town staff would be responsible for developing the urban archery program to be used within Town limits. Town staff would also be responsible for ensuring the safety of hunters and anyone else who may purposefully or mistakenly enter the hunt area. Some Carrboro police officers hunt deer but are not interested in hunting within Town limits as they believe that hunting here would be too dangerous.”

If you want to see some images of bow hunting accidents, click here. WARNING: Images are extremely graphic.

 

 

Is Deer Killing Humane?

This is the sixth in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Assertion 6: “Pursue a Humane Deer Herd Management Program…through culling” [page 42]

Is there humane way to kill someone who does not want to die? Of course not.

According to In Defense of Animals, “Bow hunting is, next to trapping, the cruelest way of killing animals.”

“A report summarizing 24 studies of bow hunting demonstrated that there is little chance that deer die instantly when struck, but more typically bow hunters take an average of 14 shots (!) to kill an animal, and there is a 54% wounding and crippling rate. For every deer killed and dragged out of the woods, another one is wounded and runs off only to die hours, days or even weeks later, all the while in pain, defenseless against further attacks by natural predators.”

Our featured image is of a deer that was shot through the head in Chapel Hill taken in October 2015. The person who snapped the photo “said he contacted North Carolina Fish and Wildlife but was told if the animal wasn’t suffering, there was nothing they could do.”

If a child had an arrow through her head, would we do something about it? If a dog had an arrow through her head, would we do something about it?

Then-Carrboro Police Chief Carolyn Hutchison reported a similar incident in Carrboro in 2010: “It is also important to note that deer struck by arrows do not always die immediately. In fact, on September 28, 2010, in a Carrboro neighborhood off Eubanks Road, a deer that had been shot by an arrow wandered into the yard of a residence. The resident was quite upset and called for assistance. She did not want the young children inside the house to witness the very grim situation. Carrboro’s animal control officer and a police officer responded and found the badly wounded deer standing close to the house. The deer finally ran away, which in this situation, was the best case scenario. ‘Dispatching’ a deer in the yard of a private residence is difficult at best and would require the removal of the carcass.”

And according to Harvard-educated psychologist Dr. Melanie Joy, “Whenever we have to disconnect from our natural empathy for other beings — human or nonhuman — and participate in acts of violence toward them, or whenever we witness such acts of violence, we are at risk of traumatization. At particular risk are those closest to the violence, such as…children who are forced to kill or witness the killing of animals through hunting …”

But you don’t have to believe us or anyone else. Because bow-hunters apparently like to capture video images of the earthlings they kill, you can watch this short compilation of their deaths. Judge for yourself whether or not bow hunting is humane:

Has Chapel Hill’s Deer Killing Program Been Successful?

This is the fifth in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Assertion 5: “Such [deer killing] programs have been safely and successfully implemented in Duke Forest, Chapel Hill, and many other towns in North Carolina. ” [page 38]

Again, although there are three footnotes at the bottom of page 38, none of them references any studies regarding the safety or success of the deer killing programs in Duke Forest, Chapel Hill, or any other towns in North Carolina.

Clearly, the members of the task force know that Duke Forest is not a town. It is a privately owned tract of land that is closed to the public five days per week from late September through late December each year so that humans can “safely” kill deer. Members of the public are not allowed to hunt in Duke Forest: it is an invitational event open only to two select groups. In addition, hunters in Duke Forest use firearms in addition to bows and arrows, so it is impossible to compare their safety rate or success rate to that of a municipality that allows only bow hunting from stands.

In addition there are very few “other towns” in North Carolina with the progressive, justice-loving, non-violent ethos of Carrboro, but neighboring Chapel Hill comes close.

In 2011, the Chapel Hill Sustainability Committee guesstimated Chapel Hill’s deer population to be “25 to 35 per square mile.” Chapel Hill is 19.69 square miles. Using an average of 30 deer per square mile, and multiplying that number by the 19.69 square miles in Chapel Hill, the guesstimated population of deer in Chapel Hill in 2011 was 591. The Committee’s stated goal was to reduce the deer population to “fewer than 10 per square mile,” or a total of 196 or fewer deer.

How successful has the Urban Archery program in Chapel Hill been in meeting the goal of eliminating 395 deer from the Chapel Hill deer population?

The only conclusion we can deduce from the numbers is that the Chapel Hill deer killing program has been a dismal failure.

Number of Deer Killed During Chapel Hill’s Urban Archery  Seasons

Year

Adult Males

Baby Males Females

Total

2011

1

1 3

5

2012

3

0 7

10

2013

2

0 7

9

2014

9

1 9

19

2015

5

1 11

17

Totals

20

3 37

60

Assuming that the original population was evenly split between males and females, and assuming that all Chapel Hill deer stay within Chapel Hill and no other deer move in, and assuming that each female gives birth to an average of two offspring, and assuming that the average lifespan of each deer is 2 years (although in favorable environments, it can be 10-20), then the average population in the average environment will remain in relative stasis.

But hunting alters the environment. Instead of decreasing the deer population, it actually increases it.

As we established earlier, deer killing is not effective. According to the Humane Society of the United States, “Deer are highly prolific, and their high reproductive rate can quickly compensate for declines in their population. When deer numbers are reduced after killing programs, the remaining female deer will often respond to greater food abundance by giving birth to twins or triplets. Fawns also have higher survival rates and earlier onset of sexual maturity. The end result is a quick ‘bounce-back’ in numbers.”

A study by Richter & Labisky determined that the “incidence of twinning” increased from 14% in non-hunted herds to 38% in hunted herds.

So while the deer-killing program in Chapel Hill has decreased the original guesstimated herd of 591 by an average of 12 deer per year (2%), it may have increased the birth rate by 24%, or approximately 142 additional fawns per year. That amounts to a net increase of the herd in Chapel Hill of approximately 129 deer per year. After five years of deer killing, there are likely 649 additional deer in the Chapel Hill herd.

But wait a minute, surely the Chapel Hill Town Council didn’t know that the deer killing program would be so ineffective before they approved it, right? Nope. They knew.

According to an April 2010 article in the Independent Weekly, “Here’s what the town knows so far: …The population will renew within a year, even if it’s wiped out completely.”

 

Is Deer Killing Effective?

This is the fourth in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Assertion 4: “While several options exist for managing the density of deer herds, studies have found that the least expensive and most effective method is through culling programs, often focusing on an urban archery program that can be tailored to a community and also provide food to people in need.” [page 38]

Again, although there are three footnotes at the bottom of page 38, none of them references any studies regarding options for “managing” the density of deer herds, or the expense or effectiveness of such “options.” Instead, it leads readers straight to the real purpose of “managing” deer: opening up opportunities to kill for fun, topped off with the latest marketing gimmick: we can also “provide food to people in need.”

And again, this assertion begins with the disingenuous notion that deer herds need to be “managed.” As we established earlier, wildlife management is a euphemism for killing for fun.

So far, the task force presented two unproven hypotheses:

  1. The deer in Carrboro are overpopulated.
  2. The deer herd in Carrboro needs to be managed.

They then propose a solution to these unproven hypotheses: allow humans armed with bows and arrows to kill deer inside the town limits, and feed the corpses to “people in need.”

As we know, political decisions aren’t often based on science, but on lobbying and other forms of persuasion. We can assume that the hunting lobby has already persuaded some people who think of themselves as environmentalists that deer are “overpopulated” and need to be “managed.” Let’s assume that those people are able to convince the Carrboro Board of Aldermen that the deer are “overpopulated” and need to be “managed.” Are culling programs the “least expensive and most effective” “option” for accomplishing this “management”?

According to the Humane Society of the United States, no.

“Deer kills do not keep deer numbers down.

“Deer are highly prolific, and their high reproductive rate can quickly compensate for declines in their population. When deer numbers are reduced after killing programs, the remaining female deer will often respond to greater food abundance by giving birth to twins or triplets. Fawns also have higher survival rates and earlier onset of sexual maturity. The end result is a quick ‘bounce-back’ in numbers.

“To be successful, a killing program must not only significantly reduce the deer herd, it must sustain enough pressure to prevent this bounce-back effect, while also preventing deer from the surrounding area from wandering in. All of this usually poses an insurmountable challenge in most urban and suburban communities.

“In addition, safety-mandated restrictions often limit where and how hunters can shoot. It isn’t safe to hunt in most suburban areas where deer are causing conflicts, because there are too many people and too much human activity. It’s no surprise that many suburban deer kills—no matter what target level is set—end up killing very few deer, after which the population quickly recovers and bounces back to its previous level.”

And what about providing “food to people in need”?

We checked the needs list at IFC, which provides food for local people in need. There is no need for deer flesh.

According to Gary Yourofsky, “When price and volume are taken into consideration, it’s far more effective feeding hungry people rice, beans, vegetables and tofu. Thank goodness the world’s two largest feed-the-hungry organizations—Plenty and Food for Life Global—understand this and only use vegetarian/vegan food.

People who are in need want food that is familiar to them and that is easy to prepare. Many urban and suburban dwellers have never tasted, and do not know how to prepare, deer flesh. “Venison has a little different smell, and people who aren’t familiar with it might think that it’s ground beef, but it might be going bad or something,” says Elaine Livas, the executive director of a food pantry in Connecticut. “We don’t want the food to be wasted.”

Finally, a large percentage of urban deer are infected with toxoplasmosis, so people with HIV/AIDS, those undergoing chemotherapy or taking imunosuppressants, and pregnant women should avoid handling deer flesh.