Deer roundup

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July 1996:

Urban deer problems spread to Manhattan for
the first time on June 1, when a two-year-old whitetailed
doe startled passengers exiting the 190th Street
subway station. The Center for Animal Care and
Control tranquilized her in nearby Port Tryon Park and
relocated her to the 150-acre Green Chimneys Farm
and Wildlife Center in suburban Brewster.
That approach wouldn’t be legal in
Cincinnati or Cleveland, according to an April directive
from the Ohio Department of Wildlife. Noting that
sport hunting is ineffective and impractical in populated
areas, the directive urges habitat modification to
discourage deer, and lethal culling when deer must be
removed. Any deer who is tranquilized must be killed.

“When a deer is tranquilized,” ODOW
northeastern district supervisor Jeff Herrick said,
“studies show that 40% to 60% of them subsequently
die of stress, internal injuries, or shock.” Part of the
problem, Herrick continued, is that when a tranquilizer
dart hits a deer “it takes 15 or 20 minutes for the
tranquilizer to take effect. A tranquilized deer will
panic and can cause damage or threaten life in an area
where there are a lot of people.”
Relocation techniques are improving with
practice. In Illinois, Highland Park officials relocated
20 deer to the Wildlife Prairie Park in Peoria during
March and April, losing just one.
A bigger issue is where to put them. Chicago
Heights wildlife rescuer Dwight Uhter on June 4 took
five deer who wandered into an East Rogers Park
apartment house courtyard to his 500-acre Paws Critter
Crossing rehabilitation center, but Chicago animal
control director Peter Poholik quit relocating deer, for
lack of good places to put them, back in 1988.
What to do about urban and suburban deer is
a matter of increasing debate for two reasons: deer/car
traffic accidents, and starvation in limited habitats.
Illinois has 1,200 to 2,000 deer/car collisions a month.
Ohio has similar numbers: 25,636 in 1994, up 46%
since 1988. Cost per collision averages about $2,000.
Deer rarely starve in urban and suburban
habitats, even in harsh winters like that of 1995-1996.
Instead, they first strip the bark off of trees, then fan
out into hostile habitat, increasing deer/car accidents
and conflicts with homeowners. However, at least 32
deer did starve to death in the 33,000-acre Cuyahoga
Valley National Recreation Area last winter, near
Cleveland, where hunting is banned by federal law.
The toll was far higher in more remote
regions, where deer were snowed into “deer yards.”
As many as 200,000 deer reportedly starved in Michigan
last winter, including 20-30% of the population on
the isolated Upper Peninsula, which was estimated at
half again the maximum winter carrying capacity. In
northern Minnesota, up to 40% of last year’s fawns
and 15% of the adult deer died, according to official
estimates. Further starvation was averted when the
Minnesota legislature ordered the state Department of
Natural Resources to spend $1 million feeding the deer,
to avoid having to cut back on hunting days next fall.
Starving deer going to “waste” and the suffering
ofthose who starve are already public issues.
However, wildlife biologist Anne Shafer-Nolan told
Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Donna Robb, “Death
is not a waste in a natural system. Those deer became
food for coyotes, raccoons, vultures, and many
insects. Small mammals will chew on the bones to get
calcium. And the microorganisms finally turn the
organic matter into nourishment for the white pine.”
In New Jersey, where winter losses were
light, the state assembly agriculture committee on June
13 approved bills to allow hunters to bait deer and
other prey, and to allow holders of crop damage permits
to jacklight deer and shoot them from vehicles.
Due to hunter preference for shooting males,
and buck laws that reinforce the habit, the deer population
nationwide includes roughly two females of bearing
age for every male. Reproductive potential, in a
normal winter, is up to twice the attrition level.

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