Point Reyes deer killings resume

January 28, 2008 6:46:32 PM PST
The hunt has begun in the North Bay, but the effort by the National Park service to remove non-native deer from Point Reyes is being met with protest. Demonstrators aren't just waving signs, they're waving cash at the hunters hired to eliminate those animals.

The axis deer in the open range of the Point Reyes national seashore know nothing of the commotion they're causing, but it came to a head on Monday.

"I think they just want these deer dead," says one protestor.

Monday's protest by animal rights groups was aimed to make the National Parks Service tp stop the killing of about 1,100 axis and fallow deer. The government says the herds threaten the natural environment.

"We're here to protect the eco system, and they're focusing on an individual," says John Dell'Osso, National Park Service.

The deer have been here since the 1940's, when people who then owned the land imported them to be hunted. That all changed in 1962, when the National Park Service took over. For almost fifty years, the deer multiplied to the detriment of natural deer that were here all along.

"This is a national park, not a zoo," says Natalie Gates, National Parks Service Wildlife Biologist

"I mean, just because they haven't been here since 2000 BC doesn't mean they're not natural," Karen Wilson, Wildcare.

"This coastal area is a preserve. One of the last coastal areas of wilderness and we have a duty to restore it if we can," says Gates.

The National Park Service says the time for study and talk has long past. It's already paying a $700,000 dollar contract with a company that has killed roughly 400 of the deer so far. Animal rights people have volunteered to buy that contract out and may push for legislation that would protect the deer for their historic value. In the meantime, the National Parks Service notes that it is also experimenting with contraception in this program, but that defense falls on deaf ears.

"The next thing, people will be taken out, Then they'll take out the roads," says Wilson.