- Associated Press - Friday, June 6, 2014

AVALON, Calif. (AP) - Hunters will be asked to begin thinning the 2,400 nonnative mule deer on Santa Catalina Island in an effort to eradicate the most destructive invasive species left on the isle off the Southern California mainland.

The Catalina Island Conservancy will require that 60 percent of 500 tags issued this hunting season be for does. Each doe annually has twins, so that takes out three deer in a year, spokesman John Mack said. Hunting season runs from July to December.

Drought has magnified the deer problem because food is at such a premium and the animals have stripped brush and saplings, leaving only tufts of grass.

The island has already gotten rid of thousands of goats, pigs and bison that threatened its unique vegetation.

Today, there are only three female goats and one shaggy pig remains in the interior. The bison population has dropped from 350 to 138, and all of the animals are on birth control.

What happens next will depend on how the hunters do and if fewer animals are easier on the vegetation. “I think we may eventually have to go to an 80 percent doe-heavy harvest to reduce the population,” Mack said.

The conservancy, which owns the about 90 percent of the island, is working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which owns the deer to solve the problem.

“If nothing is done, that deer population will grow to the point where much of it will starve to death,” department biologist Rebecca Barboza told the Los Angeles Times.

Hunters normally take 350 deer a year, but that total isn’t near enough, according to biologists. There have been an increasing number of reports about deer eating from home gardens and walking down Avalon streets.

The Los Angeles County Forestry Department shipped in the first deer in the 1930s, the same time pigs were brought from Santa Cruz Island to root out rattlesnakes. Domestic goats were turned loose by Spanish missionaries in the 1820s, and bison were imported for movies in 1924.

There are no predators to thin the herds, so deer have been competing with native wildlife for about 80 years. Plants have taken a beating, and some of them are not found anywhere else.

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Information from: Los Angeles Times, https://www.latimes.com


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