Standing Watch

Caught in too many Headlights? Catalina Island Seeks to Wrangle Deer Population

Local conservancy seeks options to control burgeoning number of deer roaming around Catalina Island.

CATALINA ISLAND — Deer, like sea lions, are affectionately viewed as adorably cute mammals by a large contingency of humans. The human co-existence with deer, much like our relationship with the sea lion, can be tenuous at times. Such tensions between humans and deer appear to be unfolding on Catalina Island, where the local bovid population has reportedly experienced a dramatic rise in numbers.

Catalina Island Conservancy, which manages the island’s open spaces, recently broached the topic of the growing deer population on California’s most populous rock. The situation has reached a point where the Conservancy, according to its CEO, could consider implementing a form of population control segments of humans are certain to find appalling or cringe-worthy: deer hunting.

The island’s current deer population is almost five times what is sustainable, Catalina Conservancy CEO Tony Budrovich told council members at their June 19 City Council meeting.

Avalon city staff stated the management of Catalina’s deer population would, at least for now, be the responsibility of the Conservancy and City Hall.

“The deer on the island are at a higher level then we think is sustainable,” Budrovich told council members. “We’ve worked with a variety of people in the scientific community and they have established that the island would probably very easily carry 500 deer. That seems like the right number for 48,000 acres. We’re probably in excess of 2,300 deer on the island.

“There is a lot more munching going on than we think is sustainable for the plants and animals of the island,” Budrovich continued, adding he has met with California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife in search of a solution.

DFW staff apparently made three recommendations to Budrovich: the department remains hands off and local property owners bear the responsibilities of wildlife; increase hunting takes; or, birth control.

Budrovich stated the mandated hunting of deer isn’t necessarily a sustainable program, and birth control programs are complicated and difficult to execute. Approaching the management of deer as a property interest, meanwhile, could well be a financial burden to the Conservancy but, as of right now, probably the most sensible solution.

Allowing hunters to track down deer for sport – assuming deer hunting becomes the adopted strategy – has parallels to the possible implementation of a proposed population control strategy in the Pacific Northwest. The growing number of California sea lions near Columbia River’s Bonneville Dam, according to Oregon and Washington wildlife managers, are preying on endangered salmon species in the area.

An act of Congress is literally in the works to protect the endangered salmon from pinniped predation. Federal legislators are currently reviewing a proposal, which was recently introduced in the House of Representatives, to allow the limited killing of sea lions as a means to protect salmon runs in a stretch of Columbia River about 40 miles east of Portland, Oregon.

The proposal reportedly advanced out of the lower legislative branch; a companion bill is also on the Senate floor. A news report on the recent House vote stated conservation efforts helped restore the California sea lion population to about 300,000; the large concentration of pinnipeds now poses a threat to steelhead salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Federal officials would be granted a limited number of kill permits in an effort to manage the California sea lion population and protect the region’s salmon.

Whether a similar act of Congress is required to manage the deer population on Catalina Island remains unclear, but the Conservancy certainly wants to get ahead of the issue.

“We’re open to other options,” Budrovich said. “We’re looking at the long-term fix. There’s no immediate fix.”

Budrovich added management of deer populations is not just a Catalina Island issue; mountain communities across the country are dealing with a proliferation of deer, and Budrovich said it’s definitely a problem.

The optics of managing deer is also an issue to factor into discussions of population management.

“There’s … that balance of people who just love the look of a deer compared to the people who just want to worry about the conservation side of it. When it gets passed healthy that’s when the Conservancy feels it’s necessary to do something,” Budrovich said.

Share This:

10 thoughts on “Caught in too many Headlights? Catalina Island Seeks to Wrangle Deer Population

    • I would suggest that its apples and oranges. Your referenced study was from the US Forestry Service, Northeastern region. The forests (and what they can sustain) in the North East are VERY different than the scrub and chaparral on Catalina. Your article also noted that historical averages were in the 8-20 range. Again, for forests.

  • The study refers to a very different ecosystem than that found on Catalina Island. The carrying capacity for deer in an arid environment could easily be five times less than a fully developed forest.

  • Revenue from hunter and the added conservation dollars the hunters would provide would be a win win for the island

    Starvation and devastated eco system don’t seem like the way to go

  • Although hunting will be unpopular for some, it would be the best. For some letting animals starve to death is better than a quick kill. Over population also leads to sickness and destruction of property both personal and island habitat.
    The DFW has the ability to control hunting by zones You could even only have guided hunts with the use of shotguns only, with slugs to reduce range. Im not sure have it was done but they got rid of the wild pigs when they became a problem.

  • I have hunted the deer on the Island twice as of several years ago. Initially, we hunted with biologists on the island which ran the program. It was very professional, and reasonably priced. Unfortunately, an outfitter was later hired to run the program, and he raised the cost to an absurd amount, so we stopped. Restarting the original program with the biologists as well as bow hunting would be an excellent option as well.

  • Mark Johnson

    the pacmeyer gun grip company held selective hunts on the island for 50 years. Contact Randy Bombard who sold the island to the conservancy. Randy is operating a fishing charter in Costa Rica last I talked to him.

  • Use the Tejon Ranch as a management model. Offer all inclusive guided bow hunts. Hunts could be conducted on weekdays when the population of easily offended city folks is minimal. Work with DCFW biologists to set harvest goals. Make it a win-win for the deer and the island.

  • Ilona May

    Lots of logical wellW founded info. But what will you do with the meat? Too many hungry people to waste it.
    hat will be done with the meat?



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Standing Watch/Take Action

In this section you will find resources and supplemental information on what you can do to Take Action. Submit additional information or tips on this issue to

How should Catalina Island manage its deer population? Should City Hall and the Conservancy take matters into their own hands and treat the island’s deer as a property interest (and, hence, the responsibility of property owners)? Should deer hunting be permitted? Is birth control the answer? Perhaps there is another alternative?

Reach out to the following decision makers and chime in with your thoughts or suggestions.


Catalina Conservancy

CEO Tony Budrovich

562-437-8555, ext. 1232 (Assistant)


Avalon City Hall



Avalon City Council

Mayor Anni Marshall


Mayor Pro Tem Cinde Cassidy


Council member Oley Olsen


Council member Pam Albers


Council member Richard Hernandez


State Senator Ben Allen


Twitter: @BenAllenCA


Assembly member Patrick O’Donnell



Twitter: @AsmPatODonnell


Supervisor Janice Hahn


Twitter: @SupJaniceHahn


Fish and Game Commission

Valerie Termini, Executive Director



California Coastal Commission

John Ainsworth, Coastal Commission Executive Director



Dayna Bochco, Coastal Commission Chair



Effie Turnbull-Sanders, Coastal Commission Vice-Chair