Plan seeks to eliminate deer from Catalina Island

The plan to use sharpshooters is opposed by locals who welcome the deer

On Santa Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California, conservationists are hoping to recover the island’s ecology by eliminating its invasive deer population. Some 2,000 mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) roam the island—descendants from 18 deer brought to the island for hunting opportunities nearly 100 years ago. The island is rich in native plants and animals, but conservationists say the invasive deer are destroying native vegetation and allowing fire-prone invasives to thrive.

The Catalina Island Conservancy has proposed enlisting sharpshooters to eliminate the invasive deer after finding that capturing and relocating the deer would be infeasible. The plan requires approval from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, but it has met opposition from locals who embrace the island’s deer.

“You don’t do these projects lightly,” Lauren Dennhardt, the conservancy’s senior director of conservation, told the New York Times. “This is a last resort.”

Read more from the New York Times.

Header Image: Mule deer introduced nearly a century ago are overrunning Catalina Island. Credit: Kiloueka