Cull cruelty on camera
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1995:
CHICAGO – –Steve Hindi and Chicago
Animal Rights Coalition colleagues used remote-con-
trolled miniature night-vision cameras in January to
get rare video footage––aired by many local TV sta-
tions––of DuPage County Forest Preserve staff catch-
ing deer in rocket nets and killing them with a captive-
“One animal was seen jumping as the net
was fired, only to fall on her back. Another deer was
dragged by three others in a net as they tried to escape.
Her head was pulled under her body. Still another
deer suffered for at least 35 minutes,” Hindi said.
Shown the video on January 18, the DuPage
commissioners voted 11-10 to suspend the rocket-net-
ting. But on February 7 they allowed it to resume “for
research,” with the deer thus caught to be radio-col-
lared. Only deer injured by the rocket-netting would
be dispatched with the captive bold gun. Culling con-
tinues via sharpshooting.
Skeptical, Hindi likened the “research net-
ting” to Japanese “research whaling”––a cover for con-
tinuing an objectionable practice. He pledged
CHARC cameras would continue to be watching.
The DuPage preserve began rocket-netting
deer a year ago, after sharpshooters failed to reduce
the herd as fast as the commissioners wanted. Having
killed 895 deer in two years, the commissioners hope
to kill from 540 to 680 more.
Inflating the count
The CHARC video was the second scandal
to hit Chicago-area deer-culls in under two weeks.
The Lake County Forest Preserve District delayed a
deer count that was expected to be used to rationalize
a cull when, just before the count was to begin,
Davida Terry of Voice for Wildlife found salt licks
near sniper platforms in the woodlands––which would
have artificially increased the number of deer in each
vicinity. Terry, as a member of the LCFPD’s wildlife
advisory committee, unsuccessfully demanded the
resignation of district biologist Frank Drummond.
LCFPD executive director Steve Messerli said
Drummond was testing the licks to see if they might
lure deer toward gunners.
Two weeks later, as the count was to
resume, Terry discovered corn feeders had been
placed in the same locations. That was enough to con-
vince the county board to rule on February 8 against
killing any deer this winter.
The CHARC video reignited a long smoul-
dering conflict between the majority of Chicago-area
animal protection groups, which oppose deer-culling,
and Don Rolla of the Elsa Wild Animal Appeal, who
supports it in principle, to preserve brush habitat for
songbirds. Invited to preview the video with Hindi,
Rolla said he was unable to make the meeting, but
after seeing portions on television newscasts, added in
a January 19 letter to DuPage County Forest Preserve
District operations committee chairperson Patti
Bellock that the video “did pose questions with regard
to the humane nature of the procedure.” Rolla reiterat-
ed a standing offer to help the preserve pursue alterna-
tives to rocket-netting, notably sharpshooting and
On February 9, after meeting with preserve
staff, Rolla wrote to the preserve commissioners and
Hindi that he had “determined that the use of the rock-
et nets for [radio collaring] is humane and should be
allowed to continue,” although the usual means of
capturing deer for radio-collaring is tranquilization,
either via darts or drug-laced bait. Both Hindi and
Terry told ANIMAL PEOPLE that in their estima-
tion, Rolla’s endorsement was the main reason why
the DuPage commissioners didn’t abandon rocket-net-
Other communities are also trying to reduce
deer numbers. At Fox Point, Wisconsin, a net-and-
shoot cull was averted in favor of trapping and resale
to canned hunts, after a December aerial survey found
only 35 deer, not the 65 said to be there in the fall.
A sharpshooting deer cull was to start on
Valentine’s Day in Highland Park, Illinois, after a
60-day delay imposed by the city council to give cull
opponents time to research a relocation plan. They
were not expected to find a relocation site.
Rangers at Grand Canyon National Park in
Arizona killed more than two dozen malnourished
deer between mid-December and mid-January who
had become dependent on visitors’ food handouts.
“They’re getting rid of their mistakes,” said D.J.
Schubert of the Fund for Animals.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission
opened a special deer-culling season on February 1.
Authorized communities will be allowed to shoot deer
through September 1, the opening of the hunting sea-
son. Fox Chapel, near Pittsburgh, and Lower
Merion, near Philadelphia, were reportedly first to
apply for permits, but a Lower Merion citizens’ com-
mittee is challenging the killing plan and promoting an
experimental deer birth control program instead.
The East Bay Regional Park District mean-
while dropped a two-year-old birth control program to
control Columbian black-tailed deer at Coyote Hills
Regional Park in Fremont,
“Contraception works, but it’s too expensive and
labor-intensive to be practical,” said spokesman Ned
MacKay. The effort cost $2,000 per deer annually, in
part because the deer were monitored with radio col-
lars to insure that each one got her annual contracep-
tive booster shot. The district gave up on relocation in
1992, after all 29 deer captured at the Ardenwood
Regional Preserve died––mostly from predation––
soon after release in the Ohlone Regional Wilderness.