Safari Club Opposes Catalina Island Mule Deer Eradication Plan

A Catalina Island plan to eradicate the island’s mule deer population divided two sides of the argument. Now, Safari Club International entered the chat with a statement condemning the plan:

Safari Club International photo

Safari Club International (SCI) and SCI California Coalition staunchly oppose the Catalina Island Conservancy’s unscientific proposal to eradicate the mule deer population from the Island. Both organizations are advocating for reasonable alternatives, such as an expanded program of legal, regulated hunting, that would balance public enjoyment of wildlife with harvest opportunities for lean, organic sources of protein.

California Governor Newsom has a long history of disrespecting hunting and hunters’ ethical, sustainable, and critical role in wildlife management. Yet his administration and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are comfortable with an aerial slaughter plan to kill thousands of deer wantonly.

Before such extreme measures are even considered, SCI believes it is critical to determine the carrying capacity for mule deer and bison on the Island. SCI demands peer-reviewed studies to assess the feasibility of coexistence with native fauna. Sadly, the Conservancy’s record of this type of scientific approach is poor. For example, in the instance of bison management, the Conservancy first established a birth control program, then it reversed course and proposed introducing additional bison to expand genetic diversity in the herd. With respect to the deer population, residents and non-Conservancy-affiliated biologists question the Conservancy’s methodology for population estimation.

The Conservancy’s use of cherry-picked information to make consequential decisions is alarming. Mule deer provide significant benefits to Catalina Island residents, and their impact on Island vegetation is not significant—despite Conservancy claims. The Conservancy’s plan to eradicate deer on the Island has been rejected at least twice due to lack of data and scientific support. It should be rejected again, especially as it does not meet the standard for a “Scientific Collection Permit.”

“If Governor Newsom and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife care about science-based conservation, they will reject the Catalina Island Conservancy’s foolish deer mule eradication proposal immediately,” said SCI CEO W. Laird Hamberlin. “Proper management of the deer mule population via regulated hunting and other tried-and-true methods, not ill-founded aerial slaughter, will ensure ecological harmony on Catalina Island.”

“Mule deer have thrived on the Island for a century, while thousands of sportsmen and women have participated in regulated hunting seasons since then,” noted SCI California Coalition’s Legislative Coordinator Lisa McNamee. “We stand ready to collaborate with the Department to create sustainable, pro-hunting deer and bison population management strategies once this proposal is no longer on the table.”

Background Information:

  • Catalina Island is off the coast of Southern California. The island is approximately 48,000 acres in size, and is home to a wealth of plant and animal species, including bison and mule deer populations that have inhabited the area for over a century.
  • The Catalina Island Conservancy, a land trust, manages 88% of the island’s surface. The island is home to approximately 4,000 residents, many of whom make their livings from tourism.
  • The Conservancy has applied at least twice for a “depredation permit” to cull all mule deer (est. population between 1,000 and 2,000) from the island. The Conservancy claims that deer browsing is negatively impacting native plants. That claim is disputed by local residents and others, including SCI. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has denied these depredation permits each time.
  • The Conservancy has now applied for a “Scientific Collecting Permit” that would authorize the culling of every deer on the island. Deer would be culled through aerial gunning from helicopters. Culled deer outside the bounds of the island’s two communities would be left in place and the meat wasted.