American island prepares to kill all deer to save it

Written by Jeppe W

Dec.04 - 2023 1:29 PM CET


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Santa Catalina Island, often referred to as North America's Galápagos for its rich biodiversity, is currently facing a critical environmental challenge, according to Yahoo News

The island, a rugged mountain rising from the sea off Southern California's coast, is home to unique flora and fauna, including over 60 endemic species. However, this unique ecosystem is under threat due to the introduction of non-native species over the past century for various purposes, including ranching, hunting, and filmmaking.

Lauren Dennhardt, the lead conservationist on Catalina Island, believes the solution to saving the island's native habitat lies in an extreme measure: eradicating all deer from the island. The Catalina Island Conservancy, a nonprofit that owns a majority of the island, supports this view.

The island, a popular tourist destination for over a century, has seen its landscape altered by these introduced deer. Initially brought in for hunting, the deer population has now ballooned to 2,000, posing a severe threat to native plants by overgrazing.

This overgrazing has resulted in soil erosion and a depletion of food sources for other animals. More alarmingly, it has led to the proliferation of flammable nonnative plants, heightening the risk of catastrophic fires similar to those on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

To address this, the Conservancy is considering using sharpshooters to cull the deer population from helicopters over seven weeks next summer, a method previously used in conservation efforts on other Channel Islands and worldwide.

This proposal, however, has sparked outrage among many of the 3,000 residents of Avalon, a resort community on the island.

They have staged protests and signed petitions against the plan, which they see as out of step with Catalina's peaceful nature. The islanders feel a deep connection to the land and its wildlife, viewing the deer as an integral part of their environment and lifestyle.

Despite these protests, the Conservancy argues that other methods, such as relocation or sterilization, are impractical or would take too long to be effective. The deer have no natural predators on the island, allowing their population to grow unchecked.

The Conservancy has attempted to manage the deer through a hunting program, but it has proved insufficient.

The controversy has even led to personal threats against Dennhardt and raised safety concerns, highlighting the intense emotions involved in this environmental debate.

The situation on Catalina Island reflects the complex and often contentious nature of wildlife management and conservation efforts, particularly when they involve drastic measures like culling.

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