Catalina Island Conservancy to scrap helicopter deer-shooting plan

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CATALINA buck and doe. PHOTO COURTESY PHOTO COURTESY WILDLIFE WEST, INC.
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By Tim E. Hovey

LOS ANGELES– After receiving an overwhelming amount of negative press, the Catalina Island Conservancy (CIC) has decided to reconsider its deer population control plan for the island. In November of 2023, the CIC proposed a bold and controversial plan to eliminate the island deer population by hiring sharpshooters in helicopters to shoot the deer and leave them to rot. At that time, the plan was being considered by the California Department of Fish and Game Commission.

In a hybrid meeting held in Mammoth Lakes on June 19-20, the Commission approved the CIC’s five-year game management renewal plan for deer hunting on the island. Additionally, they also approved an initial lot of 500 deer tags to hunt Catalina Island, with provisions to incrementally increase that number upon written request in October and December. The Commission’s move to increase the deer hunting season on the island and essentially doubling the number of deer tags has led to the CIC pulling the controversial helicopter deer slaughter plan off the table.

The plan to eliminate the almost 2,000 deer from the island using the CIC proposed method garnered strong opposition from the island residents, sportsman and even the Humane Society of Catalina Island. Petitions drafted to oppose the deer shoot as well as calls to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, were instrumental in getting Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn involved.

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Last month, Supervisor Hahn led the Board of Supervisors in a unanimous vote to oppose the deer cull plan, and she asked the Conservancy to reconsider other options, such as extending the deer hunting season. The Commission’s move to renew the five-year Private Land Management (PLM) for deer hunting on the island and increasing the number of tags is good news for hunters, and demonstrates that other options to control the deer population on Catalina Island humanly should be considered.

On May 16, the CIC announced that it will proceed with its regular deer hunting season, running from mid-July through December. Information on obtaining tags will be posted at Catalinaconservancy.org.

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