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LA County Fights Against Catalina Island Conservancy’s Invasive Deer Population Control Plan

A Deer (Credits: The Hill)

California’s Catalina Island is embroiled in a heated controversy over a proposal to cull its invasive mule deer population via helicopter sharpshooting.

The Catalina Island Conservancy, which manages a huge portion of the island’s land, submitted a plan to the Department of Fish and Wildlife last August to eradicate the population, citing its harmful impact on native wildlife. However, the proposal has met with fierce opposition from the public and Los Angeles County leadership.

L.A. supervisors oppose using helicopters to hunt Catalina deer (Credits: Los Angeles Times)

In a scathing letter to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, with the unanimous support of her colleagues, called for the rejection of the plan, labeling it “inhumane and drastic.”

Hahn argued that the proposed aerial shooting poses risks to public safety and urged the consideration of less extreme measures to control the deer population.

The Catalina Island Conservancy’s plan outlined various methods for mitigating the mule deer population, introduced to the island in the 1930s as a game species. The deer, with no natural predators, have devastated native vegetation, leading to boom-and-bust population cycles.

Deer eradication proposal sparks anger on Catalina Island (Credits: Los Angeles Times)

The Conservancy explored alternatives like mass sterilization, relocation, and introducing natural predators but found each method had major drawbacks. The proposal’s critics argue that sharpshooting from helicopters is an overly extreme solution, and public outcry has been intense.

Two petitions have garnered nearly 90,000 signatures opposing the plan. Supervisor Hahn urged the Conservancy to reconsider alternative proposals and put the current plan on hold.

In response, the Conservancy expressed disappointment but remains committed to finding a solution that ensures the island’s safety, sustainability, and resilience.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has yet to comment on the controversy. As the debate continues, the fate of Catalina Island’s mule deer population hangs in the balance.

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