Wayne Pacelle: A Humane Nation
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, blogs daily at A Humane Nation about the most pressing issues facing animals and ways you can get involved with animal protection and The HSUS.
Archive for September, 2012
Wayne Pacelle: A Humane Nation
By Kasey Husk 331-4243 | firstname.lastname@example.org
September 20, 2012, last update: 9/20 @ 12:06 am
The days of some local deer may be numbered if recommendations so far favored by the Bloomington-Monroe County Deer Task Force come to pass.
The 11-member group dedicated to finding solutions for problems caused by deer overpopulation reviewed parts of a draft of its final report Wednesday as it prepared to present the document to city and county officials late next month.
The draft report, which has been more than two years in the making, includes recommendations for nonlethal methods of deer control such as feeding bans and increased fence heights, as well as provisions for sharpshooting, hunting and trap-and-kill methods of reducing the deer population.
The deer task force’s report is strictly advisory, however. It will be up to the Bloomington City Council to ultimately implement any recommendations — lethal or otherwise.
Task force members moved rapidly through various aspects of the report, generally reading only the heading of a chapter and often approving that section with little or no discussion. Task force chairman Dave Rollo noted, however, that issues have been discussed at length in previous meetings.
The draft report — which was requested but not yet made available to The Herald-Times — suggests designating “greenspace hunting districts” in appropriate areas of the city where there is at least 5 contiguous acres of land. After Wednesday’s meeting, task force member Bob Foyut said that, if approved, hunters would be able to obtain a permit and hunt on those approved areas during hunting season, though hunting is usually not permitted within city limits.
The task force also recommends culling the local urban deer population through “sharpshooting” and “trap-and-kill” methods, neither of which are considered by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to be forms of hunting.
With sharpshooting, deer would be lured to a specific area with bait over the course of a few weeks and then a professional sharpshooter using a silencer would kill them as they come to eat, Foyut said. That method could potentially be used at Griffy Lake on the land that falls under the city’s jurisdiction.
In more urban areas of the city, where homes are too close to make sharpshooting a safe option, deer could be lured into a trap where they would be quickly dispatched with a gunshot to the head. Task force members asked to include in the recommendations a suggestion that a biologist measure levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the deer to determine whether or not the deer were inhumanly stressed. If that were the case, the city would have to rethink its trap-and-kill plans.
Task force members had a very brief debate Wednesday on whether to use the words “kill” or “euthanize” to describe the demise of the deer. Task force member Josh Griffin, a wildlife biologist, noted that the term kill “sounds more barbaric,” but also noted that “euthanasia” is a more clinical term. Rollo, meanwhile, said the group settled on the word “kill” because it did not want to use “euphemisms to convey meaning.”
The task force also intends to recommend that the city implement a feeding ban to help discourage the deer, as well as recommending the city allow residents to have higher fences to keep deer out. Right now, residents can have fences up to 4 feet tall in their front yards and 8 feet tall in the back, Foyut said. The report doesn’t specify a specific height the city should allow, but Foyut said an 8-foot fence will keep most deer out of an area, and a 10-foot fence will keep them all out.
Task force members voted, often unanimously, to approve each section of the report discussed during Wednesday’s two-hour meeting.
Discussion of the rest of the report is expected at the next meeting of the Bloomington-Monroe County Deer Task Force, set for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the council chambers at Bloomington City Hall, 401 N. Morton St.
Birth control approach to reducing urban deer population discussed
By Kasey Husk 331-4243 | email@example.com
September 18, 2012, last update: 9/18 @ 10:49 am
Deer gaze at a photographer while grazing in a yard of an eastside Bloomington neighborhood in this file photo. David Snodgress | Herald-Times
Discussion of nonlethal techniques for managing urban deer populations dominated the conversation between members of the Bloomington-Monroe County Deer Task Force and the Humane Society of the United States Monday.
Four members of the deer task force — the 11-member advisory group that formed more than two years ago to study solutions to the city’s deer overpopulation problem — held an hourlong teleconference with Stephanie Boyles Griffin, senior director of wildlife response, innovations and services for the human society, Monday afternoon to receive input on the city’s deer issues. During the conference, Boyles Griffin talked about how other communities have used methods such as birth control and sterilization to control their urban deer, while task force members noted that those methods are likely not feasible in Bloomington.
Monday’s teleconference came ahead of three other meetings planned for Wednesday through Oct. 2, in which the task force members are expected to finalize a lengthy report and recommendations for managing the deer. That report will be presented to city and county officials late next month. Expected to be included in those recommendations, task force member Dave Rollo told Boyles Griffin in the teleconference, are a “palette of lethal and nonlethal solutions” including feeding bans, fence height recommendations, planting deer-resistant vegetation and ways of shooting the deer.
Boyles Griffin talked Monday about several population management techniques that the city had already effectively ruled out, in particular the permanent sterilization of does and the use of birth-control drugs administered either using an air-gun or by anesthetizing the deer and administering a dosage by hand.
Rollo noted that the Indiana Department of Natural Resources does not condone either method of controlling the deer population: Sterilization is considered to be cost-prohibitive, while the DNR fears that the use of drugs on a deer could potentially be harmful to humans who accidentally consume the meat. Boyles Griffin said the drug used for birth control is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, but Rollo countered that because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the drug as being safe for humans, DNR does not condone its use.
Boyles Griffin said animals that receive birth control treatments are generally tagged, however, so hunters would know that if they shot one. She also said mortality among deer tranquilized while the drug was administered is generally low, answering concerns from task force members who had been told that the stress of such methods can result in high mortality rates.
Boyles Griffin and task force members also noted that the humane society’s experience with successful sterilization and birth control programs has been in areas considered to be “closed systems”: for example a 5-square-mile island once home to 600 deer, where numbers have been reduced to about 250 through such methods. Monroe County does not have such natural barriers to keep untreated deer from moving into its area, and so it is uncertain how effective a sterilization or birth control method could be.
“I don’t deny this is emerging technology, and we are looking for places that want to use it and to find out if it’s something that state wildlife agencies will embrace for municipalities that can’t implement lethal solutions or don’t want to,” she said.
Boyles Griffin did note that it was not her job to “sway you either way” when it came to the task force’s recommendations, but that obviously the humane society encourages people to coexist in peace with animals. However, if a population problem poses a “real and imminent threat to public safety” and nonlethal methods had been exhausted, the human society could endorse a lethal solution as long as it was done as humanely as possible. Such a recommendation “doesn’t happen often,” however.
Boyles Griffin also warned that the question of how to handle the deer can be a “polarizing issue,” which could cost the city more than expected if a group opposed to killing the deer chose to try and sue the city to stop it. It’s also an issue that will keep cropping up, because “if you go down that road you are going to have to do it again and again and again.”
Rollo said after the meeting that while he’s concerned about how polarizing the issue could be, he is confident it will become less so as people learn more about the task force’s research.
“We have hunters and wildlife rehabilitators on the same group (who) essentially converged on a lot of what they understood should happen,” he said of the task force. “I think that indicates the public will probably do the same. There will always be people who will say there should be no interference with the deer whatsoever and always be people who say (they) believe deer should be exterminated, but hopefully by the time this gets through the city council and we issue the report and people read it, that number will be fewer and fewer.”