Wednesday, December 19, 2007

CALIFORNIA NEWS: Plan to Remove Deer from Santa Rosa Island Clears Hurdle

WASHINGTON — Congress appears on the verge of overturning a year-old federal law that critics say would in effect have allowed deer and elk hunting to continue indefinitely on Santa Rosa Island.

Language that would repeal the law and allow for the herds' removal from the island has been included in a $500 billion, end-of-year spending bill that Congress is expected to approve this week.

The House passed the bill Monday night on a vote of 253-154. The Senate is expected to give its approval later this week.

"This marks the end to a long battle over Santa Rosa Island," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who inserted the language into the massive spending bill during negotiations between the House and Senate.

The Santa Rosa language is part of a 1,482-page bill that covers the budgets for every Cabinet except the Pentagon. Because it is included in the broader budget bill, opponents will have little, if any, opportunity to strip the language from the legislation.

President Bush said Monday he is hopeful he can sign the bill, but only after Democrats agree to accept funding for U.S. troops in Iraq.

If approved, the measure would mark a huge victory for environmentalists and other groups who have been battling for years to get the non-native deer and elk removed from Santa Rosa by the end of 2011, as mandated by a court settlement.

Santa Rosa, which sits off the coast of Ventura County, is part of Channel Islands National Park.

Ron Sundergill of the National Parks Conservation Association said the Santa Rosa language in the spending bill "would turn around something that shouldn't have been done in the first place.''

"It is a huge victory for all Americans who own the national parks and should be able to use the national parks at all times," Sundergill said.

Lawmakers have been battling over the future of the park for more than two years, when California Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, began pushing legislation to allow the deer and elk to remain on the island permanently.

The herds are owned by Vail & Vickers, a company that runs a commercial hunting operation on the island. Hunter has said he wants the animals to remain on the island so members of the military and their families can continue to take part in the trophy hunts.

The federal law, passed last year at Hunter's urging, rescinded the court settlement and would have allowed the deer and elk to stay on the island permanently. While the law says nothing about the hunting operation, critics have argued it would in essence allow the hunts to continue indefinitely.

Vail & Vickers has said it has no desire to continue the hunting operation beyond 2011.

Regardless, the new legislation pushed by Feinstein and other congressional Democrats would reinstate the terms of the court settlement, facilitating the herds' removal and ending the hunting operation after 2011.

"Santa Rosa Island is a jewel in our national park system and should be open to all of our people, not just a select few," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who had worked with Feinstein to overturn the law.

"With this legislation, we are correcting a mistake that should never have been made," Boxer said.

Rep. Lois Capps, who had pushed similar legislation in the House, said the repeal of the federal law would guarantee that the court-ordered settlement will be fully carried out to protect Santa Rosa and provide unrestricted access to the island year-round after 2011.

Most of the island is closed to the public for four to five months of the year because of the hunts.

"As someone who's visited Santa Rosa Island and witnessed its beauty and rare archaeological and natural resources, I know we have to do all we can to protect this unique national treasure for future generations," said Capps, D-Santa Barbara.

Channel Islands National Park spokeswoman Yvonne Menard declined to comment directly on the legislation because it is pending.

But, she said, until the animals are removed and the hunting operation ends, "much of the island will remain closed to the public for nearly half a year."

"We're very anxious and eager to make this island, which has spectacular resources, available to the public full time for their enjoyment," Menard said.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.


PENNSYLVANIA NEWS: Suburban Cull Impinges On Deer Season--Anger Ensues

Over six months sharpshooters have killed 465 deer in Solebury in a program that farmers and hunters say has led to a noticeable drop in the whitetail population — though they disagree on whether that is a good thing.

“We're seeing an immediate response,” said Harris Glass, who is overseeing the cull. “The deer are just not there.”

This year, supervisors approved a more than $250,000 plan that calls on the federal Department of Agriculture to kill deer at volunteer properties over 24 months. In June, a three-man crew began the effort, which provoked outcry from animal lovers and sportsmen, who feared it would hurt the hunting season.

Glass, the state director of USDA's Wildlife Services, said 465 whitetails have been taken— made up of 126 bucks, 181 does and 158 deer less than 1 year old.

That's out of a Solebury population originally estimated at 4,500, or roughly half the number of people in the township. Officials say the program is necessary to reduce a nuisance animal that threatens farmers' livelihood, slows reforestation and causes almost daily car accidents.

But the lower numbers have some hunters saying it has hampered their sport, as they have found fewer, and smaller, deer.

It's a constant topic of conversation among sportsmen, said Bill Campo, a Doylestown bow and muzzle-loader hunter who has hunting spots in Solebury.

“The opportunity to take larger does and larger bucks is a lot less,” Campo said. “It's kind of sad because you've got the sharpshooters hunting a lot of older does and just leaving the yearlings.”

In total, the crew spent 26 nights in the field, and shot deer — including bucks — throughout the six months.

That runs counter to statements Wildlife Service made earlier this year, when it said it would take only does while hunters were in the field during the primary sport season, which ran from Nov. 26 to Dec. 8.

Glass said the crew reduced its effort during that time, and focused on does. But four bucks were among the 42 deer killed in November and December, he said.

“If we found the deer in the act of doing damage, we did take bucks. If they are in a fenced in, enclosed nursery, they are fair game,” Glass said.

It is rare for culling programs to continue at all during the hunting season, said Jerry Feaser, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Usually, they are held afterward, to avoid competing with sportsmen, he said.

“This is unusual,” Feaser said. “But the driving force behind the effort in this case is based on reducing the amount of deer depredation to nursery stocks, arboretums, etc.”

Lars Crooks, who helps manage a tree farm off Route 263, said he is seeing a fifth of the deer he used to at his family's 72 acres. Instead of herds of deer, smaller family groupings are more prevalent, he said.

“We've absolutely seen a reduction in numbers. There's no doubt about it,” Crooks said. “Before it was almost the suburbs for them, they were just everywhere.”

He said the impact is sure to show for farmers who have long seen significant losses to deer grazing.

“This is the first year that I remember that I've found acorns on the ground at this time of year,” he said. “Usually, the deer would have eaten them all up by now.”

Paul Lanctot, a bow hunter who lives on Laurel Road in Solebury, said he did get his buck this year, though it took longer than expected.

“There are a lot less deer, no question about it,” Lanctot said. “I'm not the only one; we've all said the same thing.”

Solebury's effort comes as many communities are looking at ways to bring down high deer populations.

Upper Makefield has hired a private company to coordinate bow hunting in the township. Lower Makefield is also considering encouraging archery after they had mulled sharpshooters.

Solebury's crew bags deer only from properties that have signed up for the program. It has been granted access to 13 percent of the township's acreage, though it has so far been concentrating on the largest parcels, Glass said.

On those lands, the number of deer has fallen significantly, Glass said. But in other places in the township, he said he is sure strong deer populations remain.

“We pass up numerous properties where we're seeing deer, but we don't have permission to enter,” Glass said. “The bucks are still there to be taken. And I'm sure [hunters] have taken them there, nice ones.”

Wildlife Services gives the meat of the deer it takes to area food banks. So far, more than 12,000 pounds of venison have been donated, Glass said.


Monday, December 17, 2007

GERMANY NEWS: Germans Seek Bad Odors to Combat Deer

Hanover, Germany - A motorists' group in Germany on Monday demanded greater use of repulsive odours to keep deer off roads. Deer are scared by the smell of humans and wolves, so the decade-old German technology requires a foam containing those odours to be stuck to trees every 5 metres along the side of the road.

The noise of traffic combined with the scent deters deer from crossing the road and being killed in collisions with cars. When the road is quiet, the deer pluck up courage to run across.

The Lower Saxony branch of the ADAC appealed for hunters to create more of the odour barriers, saying 2,300 people were injured or killed last year in 220,000 collisions with wild animals. A much higher number of the deer and boar perished in the crashes.

The group said animal-car collisions had been reduced 80 per cent in places in Lower Saxony where the virtual barrier was employed.

The blobs of polyurethane foam about the size of tennis balls have to have fresh scent repeatedly added to them.


OHIO NEWS: Village of 3500 To Kill Deer

AMBERLEY, Ohio (AP) - A southwest Ohio village is spending $3,000 for a professional deer count to make sure no more deer will be killed than necessary during a thinning of the herd.

Amberley officials say deer-related traffic accidents and residents' complaints about deer prompted the village to authorize culling, or thinning, the herd.

Councilman Louis Katz convinced the village council to wait to cull until a professional deer count is taken.

Katz says it's true the only way to have no deer-related accidents is to kill all the deer, but that's not what Amberley is all about.

Village police say there were 22 deer-related traffic accidents in Amberley in 2006 and 13 so far this year. None were fatal.


AUSTRALIA NEWS: Farmers Want Introduced Sambar Deer Declared Pest

East Gippsland farmers in south-east Victoria are continuing their campaign to have sambar deer declared a pest animal.

A scientific committee has recommended to the State Government that the deer be declared a threat to biodiversity under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.

Shooters' organisations want the deer protected so their numbers are maintained for controlled hunting.

The Member for Gippsland East, Craig Ingram, says landholders should be able to kill deer grazing on their properties, and use the carcasses.

"I've copped a bit of criticism from the shooting fraternity, but if they think about this rationally their sport should not be impacting upon the biodiversity in the state forests and national parks and so their game species should not be impacting upon private landholders," he said.