Catalina Island backstory

Here is one excellent example (video below) that should be in the conversation.  Keep in mind that this is one example.  This is also based on the given number of 2000 deer on the island, which many disagree with, claiming the number is closer to 800.


Catalina Island, renowned for its beauty and biodiversity, is currently embroiled in a contentious debate surrounding its mule deer population. Recent plans by the Catalina Island Conservancy have proposed the culling/extermination of nearly 2,000 mule deer, a move they argue is essential to protect the island's ecosystem. This decision, however, has been met with significant public outcry and skepticism.

The Heart of the Controversy - While the Conservancy labels the mule deer as invasive, threatening the island's 76-square-mile ecosystem, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) manages them as a recognized big game species. These deer, first introduced in 1928, have been under the CDFW's management for decades. Presently, hunters can embark on expeditions to Catalina, trading their California DFW State Tags for Catalina Conservancy Private Land Management (PLM) Tags, ensuring regulated hunting that contributes to conservation efforts.

See the Catalina Island hunt booking process here

However, the proposed action isn't just a cull—it's an extermination. If executed, the deer carcasses will be left to decay, and sources indicate that the actual deer count might be closer to 800, not the reported 2,000. This discrepancy raises concerns about the necessity and scale of the proposed extermination.

The Method and Public Response - The culling method, involving sharpshooters in helicopters, has ignited further controversy. This efficient yet contentious approach has faced opposition, especially from Santa Catalina Island residents. The "Save our Catalina Mule Deer" group has initiated a petition, asserting that island inhabitants weren't granted sufficient time for assessments or to voice concerns. Thousands have already signed this petition, opposing the sharpshooter plan.

A Broader Perspective - It's crucial to differentiate between culling and extermination:

  • Culling: A selective removal or killing of specific individuals from a population, usually for purposes like disease control or population management.
  • Extermination: A more extreme action aiming for the complete elimination of a group, species, or population.

While the Conservancy pushes for the cull er..extermination, based on the deer's "invasive" label, it's vital to remember that these deer have been part of the island's landscape since the 1930s. Their sudden "unwanted" and "invasive" designation has raised questions about the true motives behind the cull.

Call to Action Approaching the Catalina mule deer issue requires a balanced perspective. Potential alternative solutions include:

  • Increasing Hunter Involvement: Promote more hunting trips to Catalina Island for natural deer population management.
  • Relocation: Consider moving a portion of the deer population to other suitable habitats.
  • Fencing: Set up fences around sensitive areas, especially near towns where illegal deer feeding occurs.
  • Public Awareness: Educate the public on the repercussions of feeding wild animals.

The other problem is that the number of deer annually harvested has been 200 for a long time. If the concern is that there are too many deer on the island to the point where they are having a significant negative effect on the native plant species, why not try to reduce the number by legal and lawful hunting - which would also put the meat of those animals harvested to good use, rather than rotting in the field. Absolutely no steps have been taken to try to up the annual harvest and use hunting as an appropriate management tool to address the problem. 

This would be a perfect opportunity to demonstrate to the animal-rights folks what an effective and positive tool hunting can be to manage wildlife populations and while also fully utilizing their healthy meat.

The Catalina Island Conservancy is asking DFW to go from zero to eradication without trying any interim management steps. Unacceptable.  

Sources indicate that this issue extends beyond the local level, reaching the upper echelons of the CDFW and even the governor's office. It's imperative that we make our voices heard. The "save our Catalina Mule Deer" petition has already proven effective in drawing attention to the matter.

At the end of the day, are we ok with killing 2000 mule deer and leaving them to rot? And is there a better solution?