The management of whitetail deer in suburban America is a tricky endeavor. By banning and removing one of the whitetail deer’s top predators – hunters – populations can double or even triple every three years.
In recent times, paid culls and expensive contraceptives have been used to control suburban deer populations in areas where hunting is not allowed. The need for this type of extermination and control of these deer populations is often the result of mismanagement, the general public’s disconnect with Mother Nature and societies overall lack of education about hunting.
The close proximity to people is the main reason why many suburban areas have a very limited amount of hunting taking place. Many of the general non-hunting public realize the need to manage the deer population, but often opt to close their eyes and wash their hands of anything to do with the harvest. People don’t want to see a dead deer, a wounded deer or even the hunter. Property owners, neighborhoods and municipalities with a deer problem would rather essentially swipe their card, pay for a hired cull and not think about it again.
A paid deer cull consists of professional sharpshooters exterminating entire deer populations within a given area. Working under the cover of darkness, deer are baited in to feed stations generally during winter months when food is scarce making the bait more appealing. These deer are then shot with a single bullet to the head or sometimes even a crossbow shot to vital organs. The cost of this service ranges from $500 – $1000 per deer.
Contraceptives are another control method which is thought to be more humane, but is proven to have minimal effect on overall population. The cost of this method can exceed $1200 per deer and needs to be re administered every other year. This is a controversial issue in itself after multiple deer deaths have been recorded following doses of contraceptives. Recently a new contraceptive has become available which can be administered via a dart. While this is much more economical coming in around $500 per dose, the vaccine still requires annual doses to achieve effective results.
Studies are still being done to research the effect contraceptives can have on the food chain and native fish reproduction if a missed shot can’t be retrieved or the treated animal urinates in known water supplies which spawn fish.
The need for these types of extermination and control have only been necessary in areas where hunting is not allowed. Although these sharpshooters work under the cloak of ‘management’ their practice is anything but. There is no science behind going into an area and killing every single deer. The simple remedy of allowing hunters access to the resource is proven to keep populations within manageable levels at no cost.
A consistent argument in favor of hired culls and controls are the concerns about hunter safety and hunter experience are issues which can be easily addressed. The state of Maryland has recently taken steps toward better management of suburban deer numbers through archery hunting. They have strived to address these concerns through a little increased work and management on behalf of the state by having hunters apply to hunt certain areas. Hunters must show proof of completion of state certified safety classes, multiple years (3) experience, references and a proven harvest record.
Paid culls seem to have become an accepted form of modern harvest. Even among the anti hunting crowd, these exterminations are rarely publicly protested unlike if a sanctioned ‘hunt’ was to take place. This can make one question the true motives behind animal rights groups.
As the human race evolves and advances, the need for people to embrace true conservation and integrate the balance of predator and prey is instrumental to the future of the wildlife living in suburban America.