When Animal Rights Sabotage the Natural World

By Richard Conniff

When Animal Rights Sabotage the Natural World, Strange Behaviors, April 8, 2016It’s not a failure to communicate. Animal rights groups are often brilliant at communicating. It’s a failure to reason in the face of scientific evidence, and it comes up almost endlessly for people who do the real work of protecting the natural world.

The latest case happened in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The city wanted to cull a booming deer population that is destroying the forest understory, damaging local landscaping, and causing car accidents (88 last year, double what it was just five years ago). Then both the Humane Society of the United States and the local chapter of the Humane Society—two separate entities—showed up to cry, “Cruelty!”

The good news from Ann Arbor is that city officials saw through the HSUS smokescreen of nonsense and lawsuits. They went forward with their cull, taking out 63 deer earlier this year. The venison went to food shelters. It remains to be seen whether ecological common sense will endure through another round of emotional assaults before next winter’s cull. Here is the bottom line, for when HSUS shows up in your community. Because those two words, “Humane Society,” start the name, a lot of people donate to HSUS under the assumption that their gift supports local animal shelters. That’s how HSUS was able to collect donations totaling $135 million in 2014, and it’s the reason even some University of Michigan faculty thought it was almost sacrilegious to criticize the group. In fact, HSUS has no direct connection to local animal shelters, and only a tiny fraction of its budget goes in direct grants to animal shelters. Its main function, according to its tax statement, is “advocacy and public policy”—that is, lobbying.

‘Professional harvesting’ needed to reduce North Fork deer population to a level that won’t pose threat to human health: report, Southold Local, April 5, 2016Meaningful reduction of the deer herd on the North Fork is the only realistic way to control the serious tick-borne diseases infecting local residents, according to a report prepared by Southold Town’s tick working group. And the only way to achieve the reduction needed is to incorporate professional deer harvesting into any deer population management program, because recreational hunting cannot alone reduce the herd to a level that will not pose a threat to human health, the report concludes.

Read more at the Strange Behaviors Blog.
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Deer Work Faulted in East Hampton

Deer Work Faulted, East Hampton Star, March 24, 2016

The village has spent approximately $190,000 on the effort to date, and critics have argued that the process is cruel and ineffective, and have claimed that the surgery resulted in several deaths.

“Responsible, well-planned hunting is by far the most successful way to control the deer population within the village and would be in keeping with the deer management plan of its neighbor, the Town of East Hampton,” Mr. O’Riordan said. Drugs or chemicals used in the capture and sterilization process, he said, could “compromise the safety of the meat of a legal game animal . . . denying state residents of their right to harvest an animal to feed themselves, their friends, and their relatives.”

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Jim Sterba writes in response to MLive article

From: jim sterba in response to recent MLive article

Hundreds of communities fighting over deer issues think they are unique — as if their deer fights are new. I suggest, for history buffs, two books: Going Wild, by Jan Dizard, about how overabundant deer threatened the Boston water supply at Quabbin Reservoir; Nature Wars (Ch. 5) by Jim Sterba (me), about many other deer fights and the history of deer in Michigan. You’ll like both.

Living with Deer in Illinois

Other Control Methods

Other deer population control methods, such as sterilization or relocation, are not viable options. If the deer population in a given area is already high, merely sterilizing the deer that are already present will do nothing to reduce deer numbers in the short-term and is typically expensive. Use of surgical sterilization and immunocontraceptive (IC) vaccines continues on an experimental basis in some areas of the country. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may register the new IC vaccine, GonaCon, for use on free-ranging white-tailed deer. However, the highest effectiveness achieved (in stopping does from reproducing) during two field trials was 88 percent during the first year post-treatment on one site, and the effectiveness fell to 46 and 47 percent during year two on both sites. The EPA registration may specify that GonaCon must be hand-injected. Although it has been demonstrated that ICs can be used to prevent reproduction by individual animals for multiple years (in captive settings), not enough animals can be captured and treated in wild deer populations to have any significant population reduction effect.

Relocation of white-tailed deer in Illinois is no longer a viable option due to potential for spreading unwanted wildlife disease (such as CWD) and/or parasites. Additionally, the stresses of capture and transport lead to low survival of the deer.


Article Posted: April 24, 2002

LANSING–Michigan natural resource officials today announced the schedule for the annual Trillium Festival, May 4 and 5, at Muskegon’s Hoffmaster State Park. “This is a wonderful opportunity for visitors to enjoy Michigan’s natural beauty,” said park manager Elizabeth Tillman. “The festival is an entertaining and educational event celebrating spring and Michigan’s wildflowers.”

April and May are prime blooming season for the assorted wildflowers which blanket Hoffmaster Park’s forest floors and wooded stream banks, providing a beautiful backdrop for educational programs. Programs throughout the two-day festival help visitors learn more about all the natural features of the woods and sand dune communities so prevalent in P.J. Hoffmaster State Park. This event draws visitors from across the state each year.
The Festival is free, but a Motor Vehicle Permit is required for entry into any state park or recreation area for $4
daily, or $20 annually.
For a list of events that will take place throughout the weekend celebrating the rare and beautiful Trillium flower
and the 30th Anniversary of the Natural Areas Program, please call the contact listed above

Source: MDNR

So I did some research:

Growing deer herd gobbling park’s treasured flora, Michigan Sportsman, June 22, 2005Deer have wiped out most of the park’s trademark trillium, a dramatic change that forced the renaming of the annual Trillium Festival a few years ago.

Long-term effort to restore P.J. Hoffmaster State Park vegetation far from over, MLive, Nov 26, 2010 NORTON SHORES — In 2005, when the state first opened P.J. Hoffmaster State Park for deer hunting, the animals had ravaged the native vegetation and rare plants that grew near the forest floor.

Now, as the four-day hunt enters its sixth year, park officials say it has helped reduce the overabundant deer population, but plant recovery is far from complete.

Spring Is Blooming: The Best Places To See Wildflowers In and Around Grand Rapids, Experience Grand Rapids, May 14, 2015“We’re seeing a comeback of some of the flowers, some really big pockets, since we started (hosting) fall deer hunts. Its been slow, but we have great trails and some great flowers. The hepatica is blooming now, but we have white trilliums, bellworts, and variety of violets. We have a ton of spring beauties and Dutchmans breeches on southern-facing slopes. People also see jack-in-the- pulpits. The deer dont like to eat those.” (Gillette Sand Dunes

Gillette Nature Association at Hoffmaster State Park, March 2014. Park regrowing white trillium and selling them as fundraiser.

Response to HSHV article in Bridge

Tanya Hilgendorf has everything backwards.

Ann Arbor’s process was not “Shoot First” but a very slow and reluctant slog to the conclusion that only lethal methods would reduce an overabundant deer population.

Ann Arbor’s year-long study of the problem and the scientific literature on the subject did not reveal that lethal deer management methods don’t work and nonlethal ones do, but exactly the opposite.

The question of public safety, rather than being irrelevant to Ann Arbor’s deer discussion was very much part of the process due to fears by drivers of deer-vehicle collisions and by the advance of Lyme disease from the Lake Michigan shore toward Washtenaw County.

The decision to have sharpshooters thin the herd was not justified by a “green scare” valuing a few plants more than deer, but was a move to protect entire ecosystems of woodlands and prairies from a single species, deer, whose numbers were becoming destructive because herd size is no longer controlled by natural predators such as wolves and cougars.

Deer are not increasingly visible in cities because we have eliminated their habitats or chased them away from hunters. They are a growing presence, and nuisance, because our suburban and urban “edge” habitat is excellent for them and they reproduce very quickly in no-hunting areas.

The use of safe urban and parkland culls to control a deer population where hunting is prohibited is not somehow in a different ethical universe from recreational hunting. In Michigan, where hunters harvest over 300,000 deer each year with state encouragement, using professional sharpshooters to remove 100 deer has no reason at all to cause such focused moral outrage.

Tanya Hilgendorf’s other “facts” are wrong. The budget is not $140,000 per year. Ann Arbor does not have only 168 deer and the helicopter count was never represented as an accurate census. USDA sharpshooters in Michigan are not cruel destroyers of predators who need target practice and obtain job security by killing members of a prey species in their downtime. The parks of Ann Arbor, always closed at night anyway, will not be rendered unsafe and unusable because of closures of some of the parks in Ward 1 and 2 during winter evenings.

Lastly, the “tearing apart community trust and cohesion,” to the extent that it has occurred, is primarily the result of the aggressively disseminated misrepresentations by animal rights advocates, not the City of Ann Arbor’s reasoned and deliberate decision making process..

City of Ann Arbor FAQ on Deer Management

4. What does the deer management program not include?
The City of Ann Arbor wants to note specifically that the Deer Management Program:
• Will not include culling more than 100 deer during the winter of 2016.
• Will not include culling deer on private property.
• Will not include allowing the discharge of firearms by hunters, residents or visitors at any time within city limits.

Read more.