Does Deer Killing Decrease Deer/Vehicle Collisions?

This is the 11th in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Assertion 11: “A reduced/better managed deer population would…Decrease the incidence of deer/vehicle collisions…” [page 43]

According to Erie Insurance Company, the number of deer-vehicle collisions actually rises “nearly five times on the first day of buck season and doe season.”

And according to the Missouri Insurance Information Service, increased deer activity associated with hunting is a “major factor” in the rise in deer-vehicle collisions in the last three months of the year.

Finally, as we’ve already established, deer killing programs do not reduce deer population, so there is no logical way that they could reduce deer-vehicle collisions.

So what does help in reducing deer-vehicle collisions? The Humane Society of the United States has some excellent advice.

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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.

 

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.

Is Carrboro an “Area With Deer Overpopulation”?

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

Assertion 2: “Soil studies have shown that the seed stores in areas with deer overpopulation are shifting from native wildflowers and woody plants to invasive plants and grasses. This threatens the ability of our forests to regenerate in a healthy way and continue to serve as diverse ecosystems and significant carbon sinks.” [page 38]

Again, although there are three end notes at the bottom of page 38, none of them references any studies regarding deer and their adverse affect on seed stores or forest regeneration.

The first problem with this assertion is that it starts with a claim about “deer overpopulation” without defining what deer overpopulation is, and without any proof that deer overpopulation is a problem in Carrboro.

So, does Carrboro have a problem with deer overpopulation?

Biologically speaking, overpopulation of a particular species occurs when that species exceeds its biological carrying capacity, or the maximum number of individuals of a species that can exist in a given habitat indefinitely. Factors that affect carrying capacity include the availability of life-sustaining necessities (such as food, water, and cover) and life-threatening situations (such as predators, toxins, and disease).

Deer and other large wild animals rarely exceed their biological carrying capacity. If there is not enough food available to support the population, the weaker individuals will die and the does will absorb some embryos and fewer fawns will be born in the spring.

Is that the situation in Carrboro? No. There is at least one doe in Carrboro who has been crippled since she was very young, either from a pre-natal injury or post-natal injury. This year, that crippled doe delivered and raised a healthy fawn. At least one other doe in Carrboro delivered and raised healthy triplets this year. These are not the signs of overpopulation. These are the signs of a deer population living well within the carrying capacity of the local environment.

What is the biological carrying capacity for deer in urban areas? According to urban wildlife specialist Ricky Lien, “The biological carrying capacity of many of our urban areas can be over 100 deer per square mile.”

The second problem with this assertion is that the deer “overpopulation” causes the spread of invasive species. Yet elsewhere in the Community Climate Action Plan, there is a reference to one of the challenges of the spread of invasive plant species: “Large/big box nurseries often sell few (if any) native species.” Surely, the authors of the plan realize that humans, not deer, are making the purchasing and planting decisions that are the major reason for the spread of invasive species.

Do “Excess Deer” Adversely Affect the Health of Our Forests by Causing a Decrease in Plant Diversity and Aiding in the Spread of Exotic Species?

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

Assertion 1: “Local and other studies have shown that excess deer are adversely affecting the health of our forests by causing a decrease in plant diversity and aiding in the spread of exotic species.” [page 38]

Although there are three end notes at the bottom of page 38, none of them references any studies regarding deer and their adverse affect on the health of forests.

So are “excess deer” (whatever that means) the primary cause of decreasing plant diversity and spreading of exotic species?

According to a review in the journal Science, no. “For terrestrial ecosystems, land-use change probably will have the largest effect, followed by climate change, nitrogen deposition, biotic exchange, and elevated carbon dioxide concentration.” In other words, humans are the primary cause of a decrease in plant diversity and the spreading of exotic species.

There are some good articles on the effects of deer on forest regeneration here. This study, in particular, found that “adult trees inside exclosures grew less than those directly exposed to deer. Our findings highlight the indirect effects of white-tailed deer on the growth of adult individuals of Q. rubra in a way opposite of what would be expected from previous studies based on immature or understory tree populations. We suggest the increased growth of adult trees in the presence of deer may be explained by increased nutrient inputs through deer fecal and urine deposits and the alteration of the competitive environment belowground through the reduction of understory vegetation by browsing.”

There are also studies that actually show that having too few deer negatively affects biodiversity. So the science is certainly not definitive on this issue. But the bottom line is this: deer killing programs do not permanently decrease deer population and may actually increase it over the long term, so no matter where the science (or your opinion) falls on biodiversity and forest regeneration, deer killing programs are not the answer.

We should note that this argument about biodiversity, forest regeneration, and carbon sinks is a red herring in an attempt to introduce a killing-for-fun provision into a climate and energy plan where it clearly does not belong, and in a town where it has been clearly rejected on other occasions. While hunting has gained some sort of hipster-chic among some, it is a huge stretch to convince most intelligent people that deer have anything to do with climate change.

Ten thousand years ago, 99% of zoomass was wild animals. Today, humans and the animals that we raise as food make up 98% of the zoomass. Any impact of any free-living animal on climate is modest, no matter the scale you use, compared to the impact from humans and the animals they raise to eat.

Further, free-living animals have zero carbon footprint. Every molecule of carbon they consume from the biosphere is returned to the biosphere. It is a closed-loop, 100% sustainable cycle, part of the natural carbon cycle that exists and has existed for billions of years. Only by taking sources of carbon from outside the biosphere (by digging up coal, oil, and natural gas from under ground), and releasing the carbon into the air by burning that material, can there be a carbon footprint. And by destroying approximately 36 football fields worth of trees every minute, humans shoulder the blame for destroying carbon sinks, not deer.

Finally, we should note that hunting, even bow-hunting, is not a carbon-neutral activity as practiced in 21st-century North Carolina. Hunters use fossil fuels in transporting themselves to their hunting locations with their equipment, removing and transporting the carcass to the processors, refrigerating the carcass, distributing the carcass, disposing of unused remains, and cooking the flesh. Additional fossil fuels are used in manufacturing hunting equipment and processing machinery.