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BHI Investigates Non-Lethal Deer Management

By Megan V. Williams

Wilmington, NC – Deer on Bald Head Island get a reprieve from the annual cull this year, as researchers look into a non-lethal method of controlling the population.

Without management, village officials say the deer would quickly overrun the island's maritime forest. So every year the village contracts with hunters to cull scores of the quadrupeds.

But this year the island has called off the cull while researchers from the Bald Head Island Conservancy look into the feasibility of chemically sterilizing the deer instead of killing them.

Village manager Calvin Peck says the postponement was necessary because researchers want to track the herd and monitor its natural wanderings, which might be altered if the deer were being hunted.

But Peck says this is a particularly good year to skip the cull.

The drought has put a great deal of stress on the herd and has kept the numbers down.

The main thing researchers will try to ascertain is whether the deer actually leave the island, according to Peck.

A number of years ago, Corncake Inlet, which used to separate Bald Head Island from Pleasure Island was closed due to hurricanes, so there is in fact a land bridge.

An isolated deer population is necessary for two reasons - first, to keep un-sterilized does from joining the herd and second, to prevent treated deer from potentially wandering into the sights of recreational hunters. The chemical used to sterilize female deer hasn't been tested for potential health threats to humans, and so consumption of their meat is not recommended.

Peck says even if the method is judged effective, Bald Head Island is at least two years away from using chemical sterilization to manage its deer.

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