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.