LocalCatalina Connection

Catalina Island Conservancy Plans ‘Lethal Removal’ of Mule Deer Population to Save Island’s Native Species

CATALINA ISLAND— Catalina Island’s mule deer population is taking a toll on the island’s ecosystem, and officials have proposed a drastic new plan to help save the island’s native animal and plant species. The deer, introduced to the island in the early 1920s for hunting purposes, have since seen their numbers swell to nearly 2,000. California’s Fish and Wildlife staff are reviewing the Catalina Island Conservancy’s permit application, which includes a plan to kill the island’s mule deer population.

The conservancy recently announced the new Catalina Island Restoration Project, an ambitious plan at the core of the conservancy’s mission to foster a resilient and healthy island for the future. According to the conservancy’s website, the restoration project is a “three-prong” approach to:

  • Restore the local habitat
  • Restore native and endemic plants
  • Species management, including the removal of non-native plants and wildlife.

According to the conservancy, the deer are destroying native plants and habitats by trampling and obliterating them, and without a natural predator, their population has grown exponentially. The deer also contribute to vegetation destruction and soil erosion, threatening the endemic and at-risk species on the island, including the Catalina Island Fox, the Catalina California Quail, the Santa Catalina Island Shrew and other unique animals and plants found only on Catalina.

The “lethal removal” of the deer would begin in late 2024. According to the Los Angeles Times, the plan put forward by the conservancy would rely on “helicopter-mounted sharpshooters” from White Buffalo, Inc. to kill the invasive deer.

The technique has led to backlash. A person posted on the Catalina Islander website that they would cancel his conservancy membership if the deer removal goes forward.

On Oct. 12, an online petition against the proposal called Stop the Slaughter of Mule Deer on Catalina Island was created by a group called Coalition Against the Slaughter of Catalina Deer. The group had gathered over 10,000 signatures as of Oct. 18.

“There are several areas of concern that we, as citizens of the state of California, urge the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to consider sufficient to deny the current application…” according to the petition. “These include, but are not limited to, questions about scientific integrity, cultural relativity, humane considerations, and our legal rights…to be a greater part of the process.”

“The situation has become untenable for the deer and for the island’s ecology, leaving the island at a tipping point,” said the conservancy in a statement on its website. “After consulting with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, it has been determined that a strategic deer management program is required to implement the overall plan to revive the island’s ecosystem.”

Catalina residents have said that they don’t want the deer to disappear. Still, the conservancy has come to the conclusion that the only good number of deer in Catalina is zero.

It is legal to hunt on Catalina Island as long as all requirements are met, and that includes deer. Hunters must notify the conservancy no later than two days after harvest and return tags no later than five days after harvest.

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One thought on “Catalina Island Conservancy Plans ‘Lethal Removal’ of Mule Deer Population to Save Island’s Native Species

  • John Schram

    I cancelled my membership Rusak and the three board members who have ties to the Catalina Island Company are pushing this agenda First we need to Remove the Rusak vineyards and preserve the water

    Reply

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