In Point Reyes National Seashore, the National Park Service is pursuing an aggressive policy of eliminating exotic deer by administering contraceptives and shooting them with high-powered rifles. Sounds gruesome.
But there's a catch: The deer in question are non-native fallow deer, from Asia Minor, and axis deer, from India and Sri Lanka. The eradication plan is actually supported by the Sierra Club and the National Parks and Conservation Association. But carcasses found near trails and residences generated an uproar, and several high-powered politicians have joined with the Humane Society in calling for a moratorium on the deer shootings.U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and three other California congressmen wrote a letter to the National Park Service "to express our serious concern about the shooting" and suggest that park officials "halt the planned shooting for four to six months."
The letter goes on to urge the park service to employ contraceptive techniques alone to rid the park of the deer. About 100-150 non-native deer remain in the park, and the park underwent a 5-year process to plan the removal of the deer. Even Point Reyes wildlife biologist Natalie Gates doesn't think contraception is enough.
"No matter what drug you use, with a wild population as large as ours, it is not practical to use only contraception to control or remove all the nonnative deer," she said.
The deer were introduced to the area in the 1940s by ranchers as exotic hunting quarry. They've flourished since and compete with local black-tailed deer and tule elk.