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September, 2007



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The Park Service is DEAD Wrong!
CP Staff Analysis

The local Park Service attempt to eradicate most of the Axis and Fallow deer in the Point Reyes National Seashore has finished up its first phase. At least most locals think so, even though the Park itself seems loath to openly admit what is, or was, or will be going on. On this page is an image of one of the bucks killed by an initial shot to down it and then a close-up shot to finish him off. Publicity for the paid shooters spin the reality of hunting to leave the impression with the public that all the does and all the bucks will be neatly and instantly dispatched by sharp-eyed marksmen, with no suffering, then providing needed meat to low-income food banks. Stories coming out of the kill zone do not concur with this Disney-like image.
Rather than go into the multiple local stories of prolonged suffering by the deer, it seems more efficient to offer real analysis of the Neubacher administration's reasoning for this slaughter. It is interesting that an independent investigation of the claims of the local Park Service administration to support these killings was never countered item by item.

1. The Park Service says that the slaughter needs to happen because there is 'a big population explosion' of Fallow and Axis deer in relation to Blacktail deer.

Answer: The number of Fallow and Axis deer was shown as approximately 300 each in1994. The Axis numbers have stabilized at about 300 and the Fallow numbers have gained an average of 50 animals a year. So, two things are apparent: there is no urgency to kill them all and it seems evident that the hundreds of coyotes and the mountain lions in the Park are having a healthy impact on the non-native deer as well as the native deer.

2. The Park Service says the Fallow and Axis deer will migrate east onto private land to become a problem and a nuisance to homeowners and ranchers.

Answer: Almost 100% of the Fallow deer that have migrated east onto private land have been males. Almost all have been harvested during the legal, public hunting season or, if they survived, were forced back to the Park for mating purposes (since the females live in the Park areas). Thus, there is no real threat of serious migration to' annoy' homeowners or anyone else.

3. The Park Service says the Fallow and Axis deer compete with native Blacktail and Tule elk for food.

Answer: The 150,000 acres of Parkland has tens of thousands of tons of forage. The Blacktails and the non-native deer have distinctly different diets. The Blacktails are browsers of many different plants and bushes, while the Fallow and Axis deer predominantly eat grass.

4. The Park says the non-native deer are causing environmental damage.

Answer: It is true that there are a few frequently used stream crossings that should be fenced off, just as is done with cow crossings. All large mammals (including ourselves) have some impact on the earth. Fencing off a few stream crossings for all the deer seems quite a bit less lethal than creating killing fields in the local National Park.

5. The Park says the Fallow and Axis deer are keeping the number of Blacktail deer from increasing.

Answer: First of all, the Park itself never really has had a good, reliable number of the Blacktail deer in the Park. Secondly, the Park's hired experts gave no consideration to the growing number of coyote and mountain lions in the Park. They also gave no consideration to the fact that Blacktails are much more fragile creatures, more susceptible to disease, not to mention the hundreds that are killed by cars every year. Predation, disease and road kills are the main reason Blacktails are not increasing, not the existence of Fallow and Axis deer.

In fact, the greatest threat to the Blacktail population may be the very act of taking out 800 existing non-native deer from the food chain equation. The coyotes and mountain lions will now focus almost exclusively on the Blacktails in the Park and their numbers may decline dramatically to the point where they could become endangered. In the 1920s and 1930s, seeing a Blacktail deer was a rare treat here because the coyotes had almost completely eliminated them. Later, coyotes were trapped, shot and poisoned to near extinction and the Blacktail population exploded. In the next decade or so, we may well see a return of the scenario of the 20s and 30s, but this time there will be no reversal of fortune for the Blacktails because the Park Service would never allow the elimination of the coyotes and lions.

As has been shown via a number of other Park issues, the science used by the Park to foster the kill-off of so many Fallow and Axis deer has been faulty and unchallenged by independent investigation. There are always unintended consequences of such faulty 'science.' Time will tell us what those consequences will be from this latest mis-step by the present administration of the Point Reyes National Seashore.

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