An island just off the coast of Southern California has plans in the works to cull 2,000 mule deer. Catalina Island considers mule deer invasive and say that the ecosystem of the 76-square-mile island is threatened because of these “unwanted guests,” according to Insider.
To combat the problem, the Catalina Island Conservancy has teamed up with another nonprofit, White Buffalo Inc., which “employs hunters ‘to help preserve native species and ecosystems.’” The plan? To use helicopters and sharpshooters to kill the mule deer.
“The island and the deer are both fighting for survival, and neither one is winning,” said Whitney Latorre, chief executive of the Catalina Island Conservancy.
This isn’t the first time the island decided to cull animals in the name of ecosystem health. In 1990, about 1,700 goats were killed by hunters in a period of two weeks and the Catalina pig population was also eliminated in a similar fashion. Bison were allowed to stay on the island, but in limited numbers, using birth control to keep the herd to about 100 animals (down from about 400 in 1990), according to Insider.
Mule deer were initially brought over to the island in the 1920s as part of a ranching operation. Since then, their numbers have flourished. However, those opposed to the plan say they are vital to the island, which is known for its known for its wildlife, dive sites and Mt. Orizaba.
“The mule deer have been on this island for nearly 100 years. Their gentle presence is an integral part of our island’s natural appeal,” said Dianne Stone of the Catalina Island Humane Society.
While the local Humane Society understands that it’s important to decrease mule deer numbers to a sustainable level – pointing that hunters can already sign up for multi-day expeditions – they are against killing all of them, advocating instead for a “nonlethal solution” like birth control already used for island bison, according to Insider.
The petition to stop the cull currently has over 5,000 signatures. Stay tuned to GOHUNT for further updates.