Let’s Rethink an Unethical Deer Cull

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Ever since I decided to take a gap year and defer my matriculation at Swarthmore College, I have made a point of following campus news online in order to maintain a sense of connection with the school. Over time, I’ve begun to take the College’s evident spirit of justice, awareness, and activism—its “ethical intelligence”—for granted.

I was therefore alarmed and caught off guard when I learned of the Board of Mangers’ decision to hire a sharpshooter to manage the Crum Woods deer population. The hunting was scheduled to begin this December, but it would be an ongoing process without end in sight. I recognized the “profound” threat that the deer posed to the balance of the Crum Woods ecosystem, but killing over 20 deer per square mile of forest in this year alone seemed far out of line with my own sense of morality. Concerned, I decided to investigate why my future alma mater had ruled out the non-lethal alternatives.

Perhaps the College partook in the belief that its solution was humane; I soon learned otherwise. In order to have any effect, a sharpshoot must exclusively target adult, female deer. This means mothers, and, for every doe killed, an average of one fawn is left behind. Like any other mammal, does nurse their young, and fawns count on living with their mothers for anywhere from one to two years. To call sharpshooting humane is to overlook this basic relationship, this bond that we as humans hold sacred among our own kind. An untimely death will always take its toll upon the living, especially when the victim is a parent.

For the College to reject the non-lethal alternatives to sharpshooting, these options would thus need to have drawbacks at least equivalent to the sum total of this great loss of sentient life and the suffering that it would leave in its wake. Yet my research yielded contraception as a viable, conscionable alternative lacking comparable disadvantages. According to one report,

“The small home range size and strong site fidelity of urban female deer suggest localized management using immunocontraception is theoretically possible in suburban communities, and immunocontraceptive vaccines offer significant promise for wildlife management.”

The most serious problems cited are that GonaCon, a promising new immunocontraceptive, is currently available only on an experimental basis and that population reduction by attrition is slow. But the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture expects GonaCon to be commercially available in the imminent future, and if the College has already taken over five years to act, surely a short delay cannot constitute a justification for mass killing.

More to the point, the Crum Woods, as a whole, are not yet in a critical condition. Multiple times in his 2007 lecture to local community members, Bryon Schlisser of Natural Resource Consultants, Inc. commented that Swarthmore College had decided to take up deer management at a much earlier stage than most of his other clients do. Confident in the fundamental health of the forest, he went on to say, “I think you’ll find recovery here may be very quick…” An independent study confirms that, “The deer population in the Crum Woods is not at levels seen in other parts of the region, but… deer are impacting the long-term health of the forest.”

Sharpshooting would only deserve any serious consideration if the Crum Woods ecosystem were more immediately threatened. Contraception could admittedly take up to a decade to produce results; but, if specific floral species require fencing and other mitigation and restoration techniques in the meantime, then so be it.

The fact remains that sharpshooting is unnecessary, unwarranted, and unscrupulous, and I do not see how an institution as forward-thinking and upstanding as the Swarthmore College I thought I knew could endorse it.

There is some chance that contraception and any other non-lethal ancillary measures will collectively fail. There is some chance that lethal means will prove the only solution. But there is also some chance that sharpshooting will fail; despite their high fee, ($100-$350 per kill), professional sharpshoot contractors can and do make mistakes. A documented phenomenon called “reproductive rebound” could even lead the deer population to increase in size (see “An assessment of deer hunting in New Jersey,” a 1990 paper by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Energy).

The reality is that no one knows for sure which techniques will work and which ones won’t. But we do know that contraception will allow the deer to live out their full lives in peace, while sharpshooting will cut dozens of lives short and leave many others in the lurch. It is our moral obligation to make an honest effort to employ immunocontraceptive vaccines in the Crum Woods before we resign ourselves to this ghastly cull.

It’s not too late to rethink and reverse this unethical decision, but the clock is ticking…


  1. 0
    Crispin Miller '71 says:

    I think the anonymous postings in this thread are a disgustingly good argument for excluding anonymous postings. Ethan has expressed strong feelings, sure, and there's certainly room for reasonable people to disagree about them — but I didn't find him sneering at anyone. Just about everybody who used a pseudonym, on the other hand, spent at least some of his/her time hiding behind it to post infantile insults. At least some of Ethan's opponents would also seem to have been acting as a vigilante clique (also infantile) to vote his postings off the board — unless you want to conclude that the readership at large has such a distorted sense of decency as to censor perfectly civil postings from Ethan while leaving in place the cute arrogant garbage some people have seen fit to write against him.
    Editors: if you continue to accept ano/pseudonymous postings, how about putting the "signature" at the _top_ of its posting, so those of us who've found them to be worth about as many inches of toilet paper can go ahead and scroll past them? And how about requiring, and publishing, the reader names who vote down a posting?

  2. 0
    Rio says:

    I have to say, while it's impressive that you've gone so far in your analysis, that I think there may be more interesting and constructive ways to spend a gap year, but that's just my humble opinion.

  3. 0
    Argos says:

    I have refrained from mentioning Lyme disease because the deer ticks need a large mammal to feed upon and, when they can't find deer, are even more likely to grab onto humans.

    Which seems logical to me, but that study, which I have conveniently lost, could always be wrong.

    One more thing: no worries about the fawns, because when we find a family of deer, we will kill EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM. So ha.

    Yeah venison.

  4. 0
    Sailmariner says:

    As a resident of Connecticut now, having been reared in Swarthmore and having a great affinity for Crum Woods, I must say that I am amazed to see this discussion bear so little upon the first of the five top reasons that I see for reducing the deer population. The country is in the midst of an epidemic of Lyme disease.

    Lyme disease increased nationally by 39 percent in the latest one-year period reported by the CDC (2006-2007) and although Connecticut ranks #1 in incidence per capita, Pennsylvania ranks 7th. Other top states include Delaware, Maine, Massachuetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Wisconsin . . . do you see a pattern?

    Lyme disease has some similarities to syphilis, including the spirochete shape of the bacterium as well as primary, secondary and tertiary stages. If you get it treated quickly, you usually get a cure out of a few weeks of antibiotics. But, if you are unfortunate and it gets to the late stages before you get a diagnosis (which often happens because not everyone gets the rash), some very severe complications set in. It's common to present with Bell's palsy, and a lot of cases get diagnosed as muscular dystrophy.

    Worse, there are other diseases, such as babesiosis and ehrlichiosis, that you can get from the same tick–i.e., two or three infections for the price of one.

    It's true that the white-footed mouse is where the disease is hosted, but the black-legged tick has a two-year life cycle. In the second year of its cycle it needs a large mammal present in sufficient density, to allow the female tick a blood meal and a ride to the place where she will lay 2,000 to 3,000 eggs. The only mammal fitting this need is the whitetailed deer.

    It has been shown that if you can reduce the deer density to about 10-12 per square mile, you can drop the Lyme infections to a minimum. In one Connecticut community where this was done, they dropped their Lyme case from 30 per year, to 2. In an island setting where they chose to remove all the deer, they achieved zero Lyme disease.

    Nobody advocates removing all the deer from Crum Woods, but you're going to need a significant reduction in your deer density to get to the point where you are not breeding infected ticks that will give students, faculty and townspeople serious illnesses.

    Many, many communities and entities have studied this problem and they have considered alternative strategies such as targeting the mouse for tickicide treatments, not to mention all the deer measures that have been discussed here. However, it's almost always the conclusion that culling the deer is the practical and effective answer.

    My four other reasons are deer-vehicle collisions (Pennsylvania is like the superstar of those), damage to people's yard plants, damage to the ecosystem, and the suffering of the deer themselves when they reach starvation densities.

    If you look at the total impact of deer overpopulation on woodlands, you will see that above a density of about 20-25 per square mile, you are getting destruction sufficient to insure that the forest will die–i.e., it cannot regenerate. By then you have killed the habitat of numerous other creatures and left the plant life to be dominated by invasives.

    Believe me, Swarthmore is a special place in many respects and you can leave and carry a part of it with you wherever you go. So I know it is tempting to think of Swarthmore as unique in its every aspect. But with regard to deer, there are probably only two kinds of towns in the Northeast–those that have woken up to their deer problem, and those that will.

  5. 0
    disgusted STILL says:

    Hunting is ALWAYS the answer!
    The deer need predators! So we can be the wolves, we can be the hunters, we can be the lions. KILL them! KILL them all! Kill them ALL!
    And their babies!

  6. 0
    Ethan Bogdan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Just barely in time for the beginning of the December meeting of the Board of Mangers, (the party ultimately responsible for the decision to cull/kill the campus deer), I have completed my final letter advocating for contraception over sharpshooting. I have little doubt that the Property and Social Responsibility Committees (chaired by David Singleton and David Gelber, co-chaired by John Riggs and Pam Wetzels respectively) will be too busy to raise this issue again over the next couple of days, but I have sent them the material that I compiled and there is little more that I can do at this point.

    In order that the readers of the Daily Gazette might have the opportunity to read the conclusions of my latest efforts, I have posted two PDF files on MediaFire, and the links – if not blocked – should appear below. I realize that my views have not been popular, but, given that there is at least a handful of people who have been following the discussions surrounding this issue, I thought there might be some level of interest in viewing the documents that I have put together.

    The vast majority of my arguments are supported by multiple, direct quotes from cited sources, and my intention is not to argue morality but rather to expose a number of misconceptions that are commonly held about wildlife contraception, sharpshooting, and deer management in general.

    I hope that you will take a moment to consider what I have written and, more importantly, that you will make an effort to speak out about this issue on campus if you should find my case compelling. There's only so much that I can do from Massachusetts, but an organized student group might hold some sway. The board members are all on campus now, and this may be a chance for you to share your opinions with them if you feel strongly enough to do so… Despite the "community meetings" that were held, the decision to cull was largely undemocratic, and your voices should be heard.

    "A Reasoned Reconsideration of the Options for Deer Management in the Crum Woods at Swarthmore College"

    Outline – http://www.mediafire.com/?mhyzntmakmo
    Documentation – http://www.mediafire.com/?tzidkynrktz

    (Note: The superscripts in the former correspond to the section numbers in the latter.)

  7. 0
    Rebecca Woo says:

    Does the "show anyway" link actually work on everybody else's computer? For some reason, it shows the "show anyway" text on top of other text, so that I can't actually read it. Is anybody else having this problem? I'm using the Dana dorm Mac, so maybe that's it, but because there are so many editors reading and commenting on this thread, they might be interested in looking into this problem.

  8. 0
    Swattie Expat says:

    "Speaking as a rogue biologist I can assure you that, if cloning extinct species were viable, there would be no deer problem, and perhaps no insufferable Swattie problem, because I and my colleagues would have cloned an army of thylacines and unleashed them upon THE ENTIRE WORLD."

    I will dedicate my considerable resources to this cause if you promise me that Swarthmore will be a testing ground for your apocalyptic death matchines.

  9. 0
    Argos says:

    Speaking as a rogue biologist I can assure you that, if cloning extinct species were viable, there would be no deer problem, and perhaps no insufferable Swattie problem, because I and my colleagues would have cloned an army of thylacines and unleashed them upon THE ENTIRE WORLD.

    Let's hope the day will come when I can realize my fantasies. At least the ones that involve carnivorous marsupials.

  10. 0
    Dr House says:

    "Ethan– I promise most discourse on campus is not exactly like this."

    Unfortunately this statement is true. You will probably find much fewer people to disagree with you whenever you spew the typical liberal viewpoints. Your most heated debates will be on semantics and you won't really be challenged by your peers on the fundamentals of things. I'd take the level of debate I've seen here on the DG over what I've observed at Swat over the years any day of the week, despite the "lower level" of commentary which some claim to have seen. The people that you agree with don't challenge you (and at Swarthmore, that will be the majority), and most of the people at Swarthmore that disagree just don't care enough to debate because they have been so marginalized. I hope you're prepared to accept that when you get here, or you'll have to go out of your way to find actual dialogues that aren't about pointless topics so many of our humanities majors choose to waste their time discussing.

    P.S. #100!

  11. 0
    Dr House says:

    "Dr House, It seems you have forgotten about the blah blah blah blah blah blah blah."

    Carolyn, scientists are on top of these types of things: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloning#Cloning_extinct_and_endangered_species

    Chances are, if you can Google an article about it, someone much smarter than you is already doing something about it. So stop worrying yourself.

    Most scientists estimate 99.9% of species that ever existed on Earth are currently extinct right now (life had a few close calls in the past during mass global extinctions). We can plant new trees, fish can make new baby fish, and the Earth isn't somehow magically losing its water into space. I am not going to naively deny that humans have had a huge impact on the Earth, but as we gain more and more technology we can minimize and reverse these impacts more and more as well (this is a very obvious trend throughout history that humans have followed.)

    What is your solution to these problems, anyway? I don't get what your response to me was even supposed to prove. In fact you basically just gave me a list of reasons why humans need to continue their research and gain more technology to address these problems, which was entirely my point in the first place. WALL-E wasn't an accurate prediction of the future, get over it.

  12. 0
    Dr House says:

    Ethan, clearly you have a guardian angel that is trying to hide your comments from even further criticism. You should feel blessed that someone would be so kind as to protect you from the harsh world of academic criticism. Sheltering you from exposure to opinions which clash with your own is the only way to ensure that you never learn to
    admit when you may have presented a flawed argument that could have used a bit more refinement. The people of the DG have spoken, and ignoring their voice isn't going to change anything. Power to the people!

    However, I do have to agree that the current comment system is laughably easy to abuse and should probably have fairly large revisions. But something tells me that anyone who is too lazy to click the "show anyway" links is unlikely to actually contribute to the discussion or care about it much, so it doesn't seem like such a big deal to me.

  13. 0
    Kristen Allen ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Ethan, I agree–most of the comments hidden were legit and thought-out, and they should be visible even if they're expressing unpopular opinions. In light of that, I've gone through and voted up most of the comments that were hidden. If a couple more people do that the whole debate will be visible again.

    The voting system is still pretty new; hopefully it will be tweaked so that one side of the debate can't just silence the other.

  14. 0
    Ethan Bogdan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I hope I'm not the only one who realizes that the comment rating system is being sorely abused. Despite the fact that I have devoted a considerable amount of time to researching, evaluating, and composing each of my comments, a great many of them have now been "deemed inappropriate or irrelevant… The Gazette does not condone [their] content." The same goes for several other legitimate arguments being made by animal welfarists. Fortunately, I've been able to save some of these comments with my own votes, but this truly seems to be a flawed system… Hiding comments and labeling them as meaningless poisons the well for anyone who may not yet have had a chance to read them. People should realize that clicking the down arrow doesn't just express disagreement; it expresses complete disrespect.

  15. 0
    Swattie Expat says:

    Ms. Stokes,

    I hardly see how agreeing with Mr. Bogdan's view about his self-worth is threatening. I cannot be held responsible if people choose to equate themselves to sub-human animals. Additionally, I fail to see how asking me to be "nice" is fair in any way as, like I said earlier, Mr. Bogdan wrote an article declaring me to be on the same moral plane as a soulless four-legged pest with a propensity for damaging paint jobs. I do not consider this to be "nice" in the least.

  16. 0
    Lauren Stokes ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    Swattie Expat– You just went from toeing to crossing the line with regards to being nice and non-threatening (I don't value your life?), but at this point y'all are making yourselves look more ridiculous by posting than I possibly could by deleting your comments.

    Ethan– I promise most discourse on campus is not exactly like this.

  17. 0
    Dr House says:

    Swattie Expat, I don't think Ethan has undervalued the lives of people to that of deer, I think he has overvalued the lives of deer to the be that of people.

  18. 0
    Swattie Expat says:

    Not that I care if you aren't going to consider my positions anymore due to how much of a big meany! I am, as you're obviously beyond hope anyway, but I fail to understand how you can say I'm the one flinging insults and calling names when Mr. Bogdan wrote an article on how my life is only worth as much as a deer's. When pressed on this point, he said "Oh, no, that's not what I meant, really!" only to come back a while later and equate killing a deer to murder. Murder is the unlawful, willful killing of one human by another. Deer should not enter into the damn equation when you are discussing murder. They never would, either, if people like Mr. Bogdan weren't psychopaths. Also, look up the definition of psychopath. That's not name-calling, that's just vocabulary. He's a psychopath.

    Honestly, I always thought I was on the low end of the scale as far as valuing human life. Most humans are entirely worthless creatures with no redeeming qualities. You, however, have disregarded the whole species without any regard to the individual. The workings of your sick, sick mind truly frighten me, Mr. Bogdan. I can only wonder how you came to such a state of self-loathing that you have so readily devalued your own life as well.

    It's okay, though, we have come to a bit of a mutual understanding. You don't value your own life and that leads me to not value your life, either. Agreement! Huzzah!

  19. 0
    Argos says:

    Name – Allegra Black, 2011
    e-mail – ablack1@swat

    There. I'm not anonymous. I just really like this name, and anyone who knows me well enough has noticed that yes, I am also a schmuck in real life.

    Ethan is welcome to look me up and debate life, the universe, and everything with me, if that be his wont. I doubt he knows where his towel is, but whatever. We can do coffee.

    There is nothing wrong with not enjoying time with one's fellow Swarthmore students. A lot of them are pretty insufferable.

    Anyway, yay deer culling. A couple weeks left until it starts.

  20. 0
    innocent bystander says:

    Dr. House-

    You state that “It is also easy to be…uncritical when your name is attached to all of your comments, thereby limiting how truthful you can be in certain circumstances, especially when you hold views which are unpopular at Swarthmore. Pseudonyms allow people to be more constructive, but less nice. Its a pretty good trade off in my opinion, but then again I have enough self esteem to not be upset when people make fun of me on DG.”

    I am talking about civility, not self-esteem. Expat’s personal comments are uncalled for and obnoxious. There is a difference between arguing your point of view and name-calling. I can certainly understand people using pseudonyms, but stating that that allows someone to be more constructively critical or truthful is nonsensical. If you have the courage of your convictions that should not be an issue. I have no issue with Expat’s use of a pseudonym, just his name-calling, which he might not otherwise do. My gut reaction is to dismiss, or ignore, his other comments (similar to my reaction to right-wing talk show hosts that refer to Obama as a “domestic enemy of the Constitution”). (Of course I read his other comments before I got to the name-calling)

    I also have no idea based on the responses to Ethan Bogdan’s article whether his view would be popular or unpopular at Swarthmore- although based on the number of responses from a small number of people who disagree it appears that his view is unpopular; or at least that many full-time students have other concerns and priorities. Yet- his name is out there for all to see, and when he is at Swarthmore next year some may be aware of his article. That is in no way cowardly.

    Maybe Argos can introduce him/herself to Ethan next year (if still there) and they can debate life, the universe, and everything. Judging by his/her name and comments I assume that Swattie Expat is long gone and probably didn’t enjoy spending time with the majority of his/her fellow students.

    Happy Thanksgiving

    Signing off- IB

  21. 0
    Argos says:

    The mass is still here. It's form has changed, and in many cases, it has changed in an irreversible and negative way. The atoms that once made up thylacines are still here, but we'll never make any new thylacines out of them.

    Similarly, you can't reverse a combustion reaction and get a forest out of smog.

    There goes the Holocene. No flaming rocks required.

  22. 0
    Carolyn Whipple ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    "Everything that existed on Earth pre-humans is still here, we've just reshaped some of it…It isn't like the Earth has any less resources now than before humans populated it, we've just moved some stuff around. We don't need to give anything back because it is all still here."

    Dr House,

    It seems you have forgotten about the (lengthy) extinct and endangered species lists, deforestation (http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/deforestation-the-hidden-cause-of-global-warming-448734.html), aquifer depletion (http://www.earth-policy.org/Books/Out/Ote6_2.htm), and overfishing (http://overfishing.org/), to a name a few.

  23. 0
    Argos says:

    Well Ethan, that's what has to happen when you've the misfortune of being heterotrophic.

    Actually, yeah, if we preserve the deer heads to sell, we'd have to remove the brains, and then we'd be able to make buckskin to sell. And the artistic kids can play with the bones.

  24. 0
    Ethan Bogdan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Being able to obtain and prepare your own food is only "respectable" when it doesn't involve murder, just as being able to make a living and support a family is only respectable when it doesn't involve stealing from other families. There's a difference between being productive and simply claiming the products, (earnings, possessions, lives), of others for yourself…

  25. 0
    Argos says:

    I don't understand why so many people have attacked Palin for being a competent hunter when there are so many valid reasons for disliking her. Hunters are not fundamentally idiotic barbarians, and being able to obtain and prepare your own food is a respectable skill.

    I would jump on board if the school offered jobs to students culling deer, but it would be just as bad an idea as allowing a public kill. Too dangerous.

    The heads would best be opened up so that the brains can be used in tanning the skins.

  26. 0
    innocent bystander says:

    Be nice
    Be constructive
    Don't curse
    Don't threaten

    Our first two rules are the heart of our comments policy. Comments should never be hostile to the author of a story or another commentor–but we welcome active debate, discussion, and deconstruction of our stories. We will not quash substantial comments.

    Comment #42 by Swattie Expat- "you're a sheltered coward that can't stand to be away from Mommy."

    I see that meets the policy. It's easy to be nasty when you hide behind a pseudonym.

  27. 0
    Dr House says:

    "So, when it comes down to it, humans are just not a sustainable species. Starting with hunter-gatherers, we have slowly been eating away at the worlds resources, and not giving a whole lot back. We will continue to grow and use and grow and use until there is nothing left (see: WALL-E)."

    This has to be in the running for stupidest thing said on the DG (quite an accomplishment, actually, as I feel that most of the things said here are somewhere between meaningless/unimportant to pure idiocy). You're supposed to learn from history, not repeat the mistakes, and your idea is just as wrong now as when Malthus predicted it circa 1798 (I don't recall if he was the first person to make such a prediction, but he is certainly the most famous one). Just like you, he underestimated two things- exponential growth of technology (this applies to multiple fields, both agricultural advances and advances in "family planning") and that humans have also shown a very steady trend over time towards limiting our negative impact on the world, so the doomsday predictions of WALL-E are meaningless (honestly, WALL-E? Pixar may have inspired us with their tale of a robot with more heart than the whole Mighty Ducks team, but its just plain moronic to imagine a world in which people are capable of that length of space travel, which would require extremely advanced recycling capabilities, and their inability to manage trash back on Earth).

    Another thing to consider is that as the human population increases, we have more smart people (not necessarily per capita, but overall) assuming some sort of reasonable distribution of intelligence, and these smart people will help solve problems (through creating new technology). This may be a significant factor in the exponential growth of technology, actually, since population has been growing exponentially as well, so we'd see exponential growth in total number of smart people (who are inventing the new technology), so this seems to be a possible contributing factor to the exponential growth of technology.

    Seriously though, come on, I've seen better arguments for why the deer cull shouldn't happen. Everything that existed on Earth pre-humans is still here, we've just reshaped some of it. That is exactly what technology is, it allows us to take something in a useless form and turn it into something with a form that can provide utility. It isn't like the Earth has any less resources now than before humans populated it, we've just moved some stuff around. We don't need to give anything back because it is all still here.

    Forget Al Gore for a moment, if you want to talk about the real problems people face in the future, address the actual issue- religious fundamentalism. Honestly, Palin was McCain's choice to rally his party base, a good percentage of Americans thought that she would be a good Vice President (and possible President). I'm all for personal freedoms, but come on, look at what just happened in California. How can you let people have personal freedoms which inherently lead to limiting the liberties of others? How can you live and let live with people who refuse to return the favor? Why is our seperation of church and state so non-existent? And that is just the tip of the iceberg, look at the Middle East and tell me things couldn't be better off there if not for certain belief systems. I can only hope that we are seeing this global movement going out with a boom, rather than re-emerging.

  28. 0
    Duh says:


    I'm going out on a limb here, but I'm going to say you have way too much time on your hands. Maybe the gap year was a bad idea. Exhibit 'this article' for evidence.


  29. 0
    Argos says:

    I love Shirley Jackson, and her demon lover.

    I like the idea of an inadvertent fertility crisis over a plague, as it is less disgusting, but a plague is okay if it kills in an intriguing manner. I am ok with dying in an intriguing manner.

  30. 0
    Carolyn Whipple ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    I wasn't really talking to you, as Argos pointed out (and addressed your question probably better than I can), but I will try to answer your question as best I can. This will have nothing to do with deer, btw.

    There is no way to "manage" the human population without violating some human rights. I would be in favor of strongly suggesting that families limit themselves to 2 children, but people weren't too keen on that idea when China did enforce that. Additionally, you can bet a lot more women would be having abortions or abandoning their babies in dumpsters because too many people are not given enough education about birth control.

    I would say that we need a plague or epidemic or something to wipe a out a giant number of people, but a) that's unsanitary and difficult to control, and b) that makes me sound like a horrible person. And, it would be mostly the elderly and infants who would die, and they are either about to die anyway, or are not major consumers of resources. (Before you go saying "you would never sacrifice yourself to a plague," hold on right there, because I indeed would.)

    We cannot just go killing people off, because who would decide who died? (there is always "The Lottery," Shirley Jackson style :P) There is no way to measure who contributes more or less to society.

    So, when it comes down to it, humans are just not a sustainable species. Starting with hunter-gatherers, we have slowly been eating away at the worlds resources, and not giving a whole lot back. We will continue to grow and use and grow and use until there is nothing left (see: WALL-E).

    Well, there you go. It turns out there is no answer.

  31. 0
    Swattie Expat says:




    I don't want to defend Ethan, but in the spirit of fairness, he wasn't associated with the college when the decision was made. I was just as pissed off that the Kick Coke decision (stupid piece of shit Pepsi Goddammit I hate you Pepsi) was made before I got here.

  32. 0
    Argos says:

    Ethan – I believe Carolyn was directing her comments at someone else, as this discussion board includes people talking to each other and not, in fact, just to you.

    Do you, Ethan, propose mandatory sterilization programs to control the human population? What if no one consents to sterilization surgery? Should we dart them?

    Deer and humans are not the same species. It makes no sense to argue as if they were. No, I would not have people shot, regardless of how much I dislike most of them, nor would I slice up my conspecifics and stick them in a sandwich.

    I have different standards of treatment for different species. The differences between species are such that this is acceptable, and are such that I can justify killing and eating a chicken but not killing and eating the kid next door.

    So Ethan, yes, I am anthropocentric, I am bigoted against other species, and I do in fact want the deer to die. Instead of having them be infertile and living out the rest of their natural lives, I'd like them to check out a bit early, get the population down faster, and provide some starving people with quality protein.

  33. 0
    Ariel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    So, this argument is entirely useless. Ethan is wrong, in my opinion, about several things, but he's absolutely, factually wrong about one thing in particular: The Crum Woods Stewardship Committee *does* have pretty absolute power over the Crum Woods. They had a public commenting period. It ended. They have made their decision. Why are we still talking about this? If people like Ethan and Gail care *so* much about what happens to the deer, why didn't they argue their points when it could have actually made a difference?

  34. 0
    Ethan Bogdan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I'm not necessarily suggesting that fences be placed along every possible stretch of road, (which would be impractical anyway), only that fences can effectively reduce collisions in areas which pose the greatest risk. Streiter-Lite reflectors, (to warn deer), crossing signs, (to warn drivers), and the like could be implemented elsewhere, as necessary.

    No, contraceptives would not be a one time deal either. But they would at least remain effective for nearly half a decade, while culling can result in a net increase in population size in as little as a year, due to reproductive rebound. This phenomenon, (albeit over a slightly longer time scale), was recently observed in Pepper Pike, Ohio, among other places, and yet many deer management plans still do not take it into consideration.

    If we injected the deer with immunocontraceptive vaccines anywhere near as often as we'd otherwise have to shoot deer lethally, I can almost guarantee you that the population size would drop to a sustainable size in just a matter of years.

    Since I haven't suggested that we don't do anything about the deer population, your comments about wasting disease and starvation aren't entirely relevant. However, I am curious to know whether you also believe that we should hire assassins to reduce human population densities in cities, where diseases are more prone to manifest and spread and pollution abounds… Given your earlier comments about the effect of humanity on this planet, I do intend this as a serious question, and I'm not just trying to provoke you. How do you propose that we address the "human management" problem?

    I agree with you that danger can ensue when humans try to meddle with the balance of nature, but, as you have already pointed out, humans have already prevented nature from running its course in the Crum Woods. Permitting the use of contraceptives on the Swarthmore deer does not require endorsing the use of such drugs on all wild deer populations, especially not on those that are still culled by natural predators.

  35. 0
    Carolyn Whipple ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Additionally, back to the deer dying in crashes. You want to put up fences along the roads to keep them from crossing. Why do you think they need to cross roads and tracks? There are too many in one area, not enough food, not enough space, not enough shelter. They *have to* cross, otherwise they face starvation. You cannot keep them in one place. They have to spread out to eat and to find space for themselves.

    And yes, culling the deer will not be a one time deal. But, neither would the contraceptives be. No matter how you slice it, the deer will keep coming back.

  36. 0
    Carolyn Whipple ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    From Emily Sanborn, teacher/naturalist from the Massachusetts Audubon Society:

    "If there isn't chronic wasting disease in your area yet, leaving all those deer there (fertile or not) is a good way to get it in the population, and that isn't pretty. Additionally, there is great potential for death by starvation in the near future and a population crash anyway without the benefits of feeding the homeless and WITH the potential for disease."

  37. 0
    Argos says:

    House – I advise you find out when the elk cull is and go to Northern PA to get elk jerky. Yes, we actually have enough elk in this state to require a cull.

    Expat – I wasn't be sarcastic earlier when I thanked you. I think you said something that I actually appreciated.

    I think I'm finished arguing, as I've said everything that I need to say. Yes Ethan, you will like it here. You will be surrounded by those leftist bleeding-heart hypocrites that Chris Green/Henry has mentioned. They are occasionally mildly interesting people and some of them will want to engage in actual cyber-friendships with you.

    In the meanwhile, this bleeding-heart leftist is going off to the game commission website to see about getting a bow-hunting license, after which she will break out the old marinade recipes.

    You will know me by the antlers of my victims which I will wear strapped to my head.

  38. 0
    Dr House says:

    In the future, Ethan, I recommend that you say what you mean, and furthermore, that you mean what you say.

    I feel Argos has sufficiently argued the uncertainty surrounding GonaCon's effectiveness, and how expensive it would be. Like I said earlier, not using GonaCon this year doesn't rule it out in the future when it is proven to be effective, relatively affordable, and not to have any negative side effects.

    Also, a bit of personal advice, Ethan, I hope you have more planned for your gap year than just crying about delicious deer (I am starting to think I need to pretend to be homeless for a few days just to get some of that venison). I know someone who took a gap year and got to do some truly amazing things during it, and you pretty much will never have this sort of free time to do whatever you want again without any concerns again. There will be plenty of time for activism when you actually get here (trust me, there isn't nearly as much work as people like to say there is), so make the most of your gap year.

  39. 0
    Ethan Bogdan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    I entirely agree that the deer cull is more justifiable than the Iraq war and many other human-human conflicts, even if the deer aren't turned into venison, even if we all adopt cannibalism. But, as you surely realize, this is a ridiculous comparison to be making, and my point rests that questions of life and death, whether they pertain to humans or deer, are too profound for the ends to which the corpses of the dead are put to bear any true relevance.

    It is heartening to know that, (almost) despite your deep affinity for the taste of venison, you do sense that there is something wrong with murdering our campus deer when we are not obligated to do so. This is indeed a "fundamental point," and I only ask that you treat it as such.

    Because contraception isn't just a theory. The findings published by the USDA are that it works, studies on captive populations have shown reductions by over 50% in only six years, and logic, (just like the logic employed by Swattie expat to conclude that fillet mignon tastes better than human feces), dictates that the application of GonaCon in the Crum Woods will yield equally positive results.

    What all of this means is that sharpshooting has such a small chance of being necessary, (at least as the sole solution), that the College cannot possibly justify proceeding with a hunt before giving GonaCon a chance.

  40. 0
    Swattie Expat says:

    "How anyone can say with conviction that it is better to die by a bullet than any other way is debatable – how exactly would they know?"

    I can say that using the same feat of the human imagination that lets me confidently say filet mignon (or whatever the equivalent is in the vegetable world for your deerophiles) tastes better than the exotic dish that most of us call "human feces." No, I've never used my toilet bowl as a buffet, so I cannot *know* that this is true. However, I think we can all agree that factual knowledge is not necessary to reach a conclusion on this point.

  41. 0
    Ethan Bogdan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Hunting is never the answer!

    Any logical person should be able to understand this. Once it starts, it will have to continue year after year; all one needs to do is check with communities that started hiring sharpshooters at a considerable expense. As a famous hired deer killer, Anthony DeNicola of White Buffalo Inc. said in a NJ newspaper, hunting is like mowing the grass….once you start, you will have to continue ad infinitum.

    If anyone is able to add two and two and come up with four, they should easily understand the Compensatory Rebound Effect (CRE)….In a nutshell: Deer are killed, and because the remaining deer will have more food through the winter, sperm counts increase; does become more fertile at a younger age, more females are born – and the following fall it's back to square one, or even more deer than before. In fact, studies have shown that hunted herds have a 38% chance of producing multiple births (twins/triplets), whereas non-hunted herds' chances are a mere 14%. This is nature's way of making sure that a species doesn't become extinct.

    This is state agencies' mad method of "managing" deer: Set bag limits most beneficial for reproduction, thereby providing continuous hunting opportunities for their only clients (hunters) and at the same time appease the public by supposedly reducing deer numbers ( yes, there is an immediate reduction, but then we start the whole cycle again!) If Swarthmore allows this deer hunt, they may as well plan on having one every year from now on – is that the real agenda?

    How anyone can say with conviction that it is better to die by a bullet than any other way is debatable – how exactly would they know?

    And finally, generously offering deer carcasses to feed the poor whose immune systems may already be compromised due to poor diets is unethical considering that there are no requirements to inspect the meat; it is a mere PR ploy to further a sensible and selfless image of a dear hunt. Some argue that it’s been done for many years and you’d have to eat a lot of it to show health problems, and that we’d hear about many deaths….IT’S NOT SO MUCH THAT WE’D HEAR ABOUT DEATHS, IT’S MORE SUBTLE THAN THAT – BRAIN DAMAGE AND DISEASES ASSOCIATED WITH IT.

  42. 0
    Another expat says:

    Wow this was quite possibly the most absurd article and the most impressive reaction I have ever seen on a Daily Gazette article. A holier-than-thou reaction to deer culling ranks up there with kick-Coke for causes that Swatties uncritically espouse and passionately pursue.

    Watching the progress over the past several years of the committee of biology professors, experts, administrators that addressed this problem, I am rather surprised by your assertion (for you decline to give actual scientific articles) that you understand the options, consequences, and solutions to deer over-population better (and of course more morally) than they do. Expat had it right– you'll fit right in at Swarthmore, Ethan. Enjoy the rest of your year off.

  43. 0
    Dr House says:

    Actually Argos, fragments of lead can spread out into the deer meat upon impact from a bullet, thereby "poisoning" the meat. However, the amount is pretty much negligible unless you eat nothing but lead-hunted meat for long periods of time. Frequent eaters of lead-hunted meat are found to have elevated lead levels, but not enough to be a health concern.

    And yeah, venison is absolutely delicious and well worth it.

  44. 0
    Swattie Expat says:

    Honestly, people have been eating animals killed with rifles for a few hundred years now. I feel like I probably would have heard about millions of deaths from lead poisoning.

  45. 0
    Argos says:

    I'm sorry that you're unwilling to appease the demands of a rogue scientist, Ethan. I'm very sorry.

    And to whomever decided that meat that is shot is somehow tainted with lead: bullets do not magically dissolve in the animal and spread themselves throughout its body, though even if they did, I wouldn't care because I really love venison.

  46. 0
    Dr House says:

    Ethan, you seem to leave out the obvious symmetry of humans being capable of much more wrong doing than a deer (you silly bushy-tailed, bright-eyed optimist, you). Although this isn't an important point.

    The important point is that your statement still isn't justified by your vague answer. Firstly, Argos never said that was the justification for the deer cull was for the meat, he mentioned it briefly as a side benefit you highly understate in your "moderate and unbiased" article, which you then attack as a Straw Man for one of his main justifications.

    But, more importantly, I feel that a deer cull for food for the poor is a much more justified event than a large war harming the lives (some through their death, others through the collateral damages of a war) of thousands and thousands of innocent people (soldiers and civilians included) and reshaping the politics of a large part of the world (in a bad way), regardless of if said war was done for cannibalistic purposes or not. Even if they let all that perfectly good human meat go to waste I still feel the deer cull is more justified than most wars between humans.

    "5. The NRC suggests signing them up for 4 yrs-why? Because deer "rebound" as mentioned in the editorial and the NRC report itself admits that about 40% of a population needs to be removed before population levels are decreased. But its more than 4 yrs, its endless, its like cutting a lawn-you must do it over and over again. It is an annuity for the sharpshooters."

    Perhaps after 4 years more research will have been done on the immunocontraceptive as a possible solution and it will become more cost effective and viable in the future, and not just a theory. Just because we don't use it now doesn't eliminate it as a future possibility when the deer problem comes back. I agree on the fundamental point that it is better to not have to cull the deer than to cull the deer in the Crum (unless I get all the venison), but I just don't see that as a viable option right now. Perhaps, in four years time, or however long it takes for the problem to come back, we will be so lucky that better technology provides us with a better option.

  47. 0
    Ethan Bogdan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Swattie Expat,

    This isn't the place for humor, and I don't see how your gratuitous insults are contributing to this discussion. However, out of fear that others may buy into your misinterpretation of my intentions , I would just like to make it clear that I never meant to "diss" Argos or any of the other commenters. No human is without a conscience, but many institutions exist solely for profit and self-interest. My point was that Swarthmore has a reputation of rising above these things and that it therefore can and should heed its own principle of nonviolence, even if this means taking some small chance with its money.

    Dr House,

    While admittedly provocative, my comment is perfectly reasonable. I do not believe that deer and humans deserve equal treatment, nor do I believe that their lives have equal value. For starters, a human has a much greater potential to do good for the rest of the world than a deer does, (although this potential is so rarely put to good use). However, what is true of both humans and deer is that they are worth extraordinarily more alive than their flesh is worth dead, no matter how tasty or nutritive it might be.


    I'm sorry to hear that you want journal articles, because I'm doubtful of my ability to attain them, and I'm even more doubtful of the value in appeasing your demand. The statistics and studies that I have referenced are all backed by the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. I'd love to see these reports, too, but for now I'm going to trust that APHIS is not publishing lies. GonaCon has worked both in Maryland and on Fire Island in NY, and it has been shown to prevent four out of every five does from conceiving for up to five years. Due to low deer dispersal rates in suburban regions, the Crum Woods environment is little different from those in which these studies were conducted.

    If your opinion regarding delivery by dart is, in fact, no more than a guess, I'm going to go ahead and believe the information that I have read from several different sources, all of which agree that GonaCon can be administered remotely.

  48. 0
    Ethan Bogdan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I have a few points that i would like to make-this issue clearly requires another public hearing.
    1. Have you recieved unbiased information?
    NRC (Natural Resources Consultants) appear to be the party that will be hired and paid to conduct the shoot yet they are the party that issued the report recommending the shoot. This is obviously biased and self-serving. I would further look into the membership of the "Natural Lands Trust and Continental Conservation" committee and "Crum Woods Stewardship Committee" and ask how many members are associated w/the Penn Game Commission, are hunters themselves or members of other pro-hunting organizations involved in this decision?
    The Penn Game Commission is 100% funded by license hunting fees (including special permits from a hunt like Crun Woods) and a federal tax on guns and ammunition (as the NRC admits in its own report on p. 17-18)
    2. Although there is an outcry of some kind (I might ask from who exactly?) that the deer are harming the ecological balance and biodiversity of the forest, what evidence is there that this is the case? A recent study from Penn State Univ has found that forest soil erosion is because "decades of acid precipitation has removed alkalinity and lowered pH of the forest soil". Light is also a limiting factor-and the forest canopy if too thick should be cut back. The study says forests are in need of mineral replenishment and deer overpopulation is not the cause, in fact, "deer have been villanized, but in many cases forest soils are a bigger problem than deer".
    Further, Ohio State researchers found in a 2008 report that the commonly held premise that large deer populations damage forest ecosystems is not true. They found that snakes, salamanders and insects appear to thrive in forests and parks with large deer populations and that "management of deer populations could have the unintended effect of reducing local diversity of herpetofauna and invertebrates"
    3. Another question regarding the severity of the so-called deer problem is how many deer are there in Crum Woods? The infa-red counting method used (how much did that cost?), saw only 50 deer. From this number it was extrapolated that there are about 29 deer per sq mile. In general, wildlife managers consider average acceptable densities to be 20-40 deer per sq mile. Whats the problem?
    4.Lyme Disease-The New England Journal of Medicine confirms that lyme disease is carried by the white footed mouse. The term "deer tick" is a misnomer-deer are one of many last resort mammels that the ticks feed on before they die. They are no longer carrying the lyme disease bacteria at that point. Leaf litter and wet basements where mice live and breed need to be the targets of curbing lyme disease, not deer. There will be no decrease in the incidence of lyme disease after a deer cull.
    5. The NRC suggests signing them up for 4 yrs-why? Because deer "rebound" as mentioned in the editorial and the NRC report itself admits that about 40% of a population needs to be removed before population levels are decreased. But its more than 4 yrs, its endless, its like cutting a lawn-you must do it over and over again. It is an annuity for the sharpshooters.
    Please Swarthmore, look at this issue more closely.

  49. 0
    Dr House says:

    So, to paraphrase Gail, "I'm an alumni and thus my opinion is more valid than yours." Your response reeks of arrogance.

    "I remember a different Swarthmore where open-mindedness and compassion stood in the stead of bad humor and trivialization"

    Clearly you lack open-mindedness if you refuse to accept a view point other than yours as a possibility. With you being a member of a heavily biased watchdog group, however, it doesn't surprise me that you would be so inflexible on the issue.

    "Of course Swarthmore can afford it."

    But apparently a good number of Swarthmore's students cannot afford it, in case you were unaware, many students are complaining that they aren't getting enough financial aid and that the college is too expensive. But hey, if your principles are more important than an education that could form the basis for a person's entire life, than who am I to judge, for I am selfish as well and wouldn't want to make a hypocrite of myself.

    "How ethical is it for Swarthmore College to feed the poor lead tainted meat? Why not demonstrate the college's unconcern and confidence by serving campus venison in the Swarthmore cafeteria in January?"

    If the poor don't want it, I'd be more than happy to have it, its been far too long since I've had fresh venison and I could sure go for some. The amount of lead-hunted meat you'd have to eat to get any amount of lead poisoning is far more than any individual would be receiving, although I am assuming we will pay enough for a butcher who isn't totally incompetent and thus minimize the risk. The lead build up in frequent eaters of lead-hunted meat does not normally affect their health unless they butcher the animal improperly or eat lead-hunted meat constantly. I'd be more worried about the poor eating McDonald's and the such than I would be of them getting an insignificant amount of lead, far beneath unhealthy levels. But hey, why not stretch an argument if it serves your agenda?

    "Can't the Swarthmore community rise to this challenge?"

    People like you are the challenge we must overcome, we cannot allow ourselves to veer from the path of rationality to appease your clearly biased agenda. I was happy, even a bit proud, to see Swarthmore finally address an issue with sensibility, and I'd prefer to keep it that way, rather than see our college give up on finally being a bit reasonable.

  50. 0
    Gail O'Connell-Babcock says:

    The posted comments rejecting humane safe alternatives to killing the campus deer as a population control method (including the specious statement that all choices are equally ethical in this matter) are as disturbing for their tone as they are for content. There is a self satisfied close minded smugness about them as if this were a game of trivial pursuits so reminiscent of the same tone once used to dismiss women's and minority group's rights. I remember a different Swarthmore where open-mindedness and compassion stood in the stead of bad humor and trivialization, where new views were welcomed and dialog genuine not just a form of dismissive one-upmanship.

    Indeed there are safe effective humane alternatives to killing the campus deer, deer who have essentially lived in a sanctuary park and have done so for decades long before the current student population was in residence. When there are safe humane alternatives it is unconscionable to kill. If the National Park Service is considering the use of immunocontraception at Valley Forge National Park why can't Swarthmore experiment with the same alternative? Of course Swarthmore can afford it.

    Underlying the smug self righteousness that seems to permeate so many responses to Ethan Bogdan's plea lies very close to the surface the prejudice that all animals but bipeds are here at our mercy and for our disposal and use, not worthy of respect: "If you can't use it, eat it or kill it what good are they?"

    It is exactly that "philosophy" that has lead to the problems that are causing our planet to currently shrug us off. Hunting is nothing more than using live animals for target practice. Why not just use targets that don't feel pain? How is that "sport"? The excuse given justifying this form of target practice is "Let's expunge this deed by self righteously "feeding the Poor", the third world in our country. Are you simply unaware of current findings about the significant potential health hazards associated with consuming venison killed with high velocity ammunition? Just didn't get to that research because it was an inconvenient fact? Officials in North Dakota and a number of other states have warned about eating venison killed with lead ammunition since last spring. North Dakota's health department has ordered food pantries to throw out all donated stores of venison while waiting for research results from a study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prev ention which has been studying potential health risks for people who eat venison killed with high velocity ammunition. The study is in progress. But why wait? How ethical is it for Swarthmore College to feed the poor lead tainted meat? Why not demonstrate the college's unconcern and confidence by serving campus venison in the Swarthmore cafeteria in January?

    Bow and arrows are an alternative choice but killing by this method is a cruel and painful way to die. Finally if unmoved by compassion, liability should be a significant college concern. The college has a huge trust fund. Challenges if harm is done could result in fewer scholarships and bad publicity. Wouldn't it be a good idea to at least experiment with a safe alternative?

    Stripped of pretty language (uncovering euphemisms, once one important part of Swarthmore College's education) this is nothing more than a"canned" hunt in which a community espousing Quaker values chooses lethal alternatives( animals don't count; let's go blow them away) then engages in extra rendition (hiring the killing out) over the Winter break I guess to shield the campus students' sensibilities because clearly there is little or no protest. Just don't look.

    What happened? We share this our planet. We don't own it. We are not the top of the heap and attending Swarthmore doesn't imply we stand head and shoulders above the rest. We don't question when we should question. Often the present minority view is simply a glimpse of the future. Life has an intrinsic value—absolute, not comparative—that should be protected. We can have win-win solutions rather than win-lose. Why not? None of the many species sharing our world is inferior; that is just our egocentric view. Animals do have rights deserving of recognition and protection as opposed to those who dismiss this concern with " It's just an animal." Harriet Beecher Stowe said once that concern for all creatures " is a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done." That is what this struggle is all about. Why trivialize these concerns and a different view? Can't the Swarthmore community rise to this challenge?

    Gail O'Connell-Babcock, Ph.D '65
    Citizens for Humane Animal Legislation
    16004 SW Tualatin-Sherwood Road, Box 506
    Sherwood, OR 97140

  51. 0
    Swattie Expat says:


    Sorry, buddy, I'm a little confused. You didn't think…

    "Argos rightfully pointed out that your utilitarian viewpoint is simply frightening if you start considering animals on par with humans (and this is a statement coming from a ruthless asshole that thinks most humans are entirely worthless)."

    …was directed at you, did you? My apologies, as the part in parentheses is referring to myself. The "statement" in parentheses was referring to my using the word "rightfully" to describe your expressing your opinion.

  52. 0
    Argos says:

    Ex-pat: Those were possibly the nicest things anyone has said to me all year. Thank you.

    Ethan – You've provided me with no experimental evidence but have simply stated that it exists and is very strong. I want journal articles.

    So you've gotten your support from people who have dedicated/sacrificed (really?) their lives to stopping hunting. So, your comrades in arms are a group of radical animal rights activists who are so caught up in controlling how other people feed themselves that they are trying to stop one of the most ecologically sound and humane means of procuring meat. Hunting overly abundant wild animals is far more sensible from an animal rights perspective than eating factory farmed animals. Shouldn't they have, you know, flung their arms around the cows before they moved on to deer?

    Cannibalism equated with hunting. Deer's life = human's life. Human interests not to be valued over interest of deer. Choose: 2 deer or your child.
    Utilitarian's answer: save the deer.

    This is why I am doubtful of the sanity of the Australian dude, yourself, and your fellow activists of the utilitarian school of thought.

    Where did my data come from? Research done in the Crum last summer. Yes, on the deer project, which we all know is a joke the way its being carried out, but I still gathered a lot of useful information.

    No, I don't automatically speak for the bio department, but going by what everyone in the department I have spoken to has said, it looks like they're on the same side as myself.

    As for the darts: I'm thinking about when I've been vaccinated in muscle tissue. The doctor pokes about a bit, sticks the needle in, and injects a few mL of fluid. I don't see how a dart can inject much vaccine, or be accurate enough to not hit fat or blood vessels.

  53. 0
    Speciesist says:

    Perhaps someone can help me with this, but it seems that Ethan's plan falls victim to "speciesism" no less so than the existing plan. On rights grounds, why should humans have a right to reproduce yet deer do not? On utilitarian grounds, how can we decide which the deer would prefer in the first place, being infertile or dying a quick death? I don't think the argument, "well, /I/ would prefer not to get shot," is applicable; I think it is quite clear that our own preferences are not the same as those of deer.

    Even if we try to not be speciesist, there is no clear right or wrong here from the point of view of the deer. And who is to say speciesism is clearly unethical?

    I find this column very presumptuous asserting that one course of action is clearly ethical and another is not, and I am afraid Ethan confuses "forward-thinking and upstanding" with "in agreement with his dogma," perhaps a subtle distinction.

  54. 0
    Dr House says:

    @ the idiot who said to introduce predators to the Crum for a "fair" solution:

    OK, so lets play a game. In this game, we have two doors, and you get to pick a door, and behind each door is a way you die:

    Door A contains an expert sharpshooter who will shoot you. There is a high probability he will put a bullet straight into your brain, killing you instantly and painlessly, and a slightly smaller chance his bullet will not instantly kill you and you will suffer for a short amount of time as he takes aim for another shot to finish you off, however you will be in such shock that you will probably not suffer too badly before he can make his second, final shot.

    Door B contains a wolf. This wolf has been locked behind this door for some time and is rather hungry, and as soon as you open the door you will find your jugular in its jaws and your death will likely be long and excruciating as you suffocate to death from a combination of lack of air flow into your lungs and choking to death on your own blood. The few minutes it will take you to die will seem like an eternity. Also, while this wolf is clamping down on your throat, his friends will come out and start eating you alive, so you'll get to watch your guts spill out as they tear open your abdomen right before passing out.

    I'd like to hear your rationalization as to the difference between a human relocating a wolf to a forest where it kills a deer (and thus the human indirectly kills the deer) and a human directly killing a deer with a rifle, and why one is any more fair than the other. Either way, the deer's death is caused by human manipulation, one is just more humane than the other.

    Also, @ Ethan Bogdan, you still haven't justified this incredibly, insurmountably stupid point to me:

    "Donating the meat that's safe to eat is a nice thing to do, but it doesn't justify the sharpshoot any more than becoming cannibals would justify the war in Iraq."

  55. 0
    Lucy McKernan says:

    I live in NE Ohio, and am part of an organized group that seeks nn-lethan, humane solutions to problems with deer overpopulation, as well as conflicts created by habitat overlap. I used to believe that killing deer in large numbers was a necessary evil; I didn't like it, bu I didn't argue with it, in principle. What I have learned since then, is that many states' Divisions of Wildlife, such as Ohio's (one of the worst), engage in the deliberate perpetuation of this overpopulation. They do it by issuing hunting permits, not only on private land, but to very, very large parks, such as Cleveland Metroparks (Emerald Necklace). Why is this unethical? Because it's money-making machine operating on the fact that killing large numbers of deer creates the rebound effect, whereby the cervine population gives birth to twins and triplets in order to counter the losses. This is a fact. If you don't like dealing in facts, but choose to live in deliberate denial, then don't bother reading the rest of this, or wasting anyone's time with your factless arguments. The facts are this: deliberately perpetuated overpopulation of deer benefits no one but the greedy and bloodthirsty. The reason we have deer overpopulation is human-induced elimination of natural predators, mainly wolves in our area. (BTW, Sarah Palin had wolves shot from helicopters in Alaska. She's a complete idiot. Talk about hypocrisy; that is NOT pro-life!) Anyway, once I realized that the overpopulation of deer was a result of our behavior over time — via the elimination of natural predator(s) — but that organizations such as the Ohio Div. of Wildlife deliberately perpetuate this in order to make money. Here is just one result: Cleveland Metroparks was given permission to hire an expert sharpshooter to come and train park rangers to shoot and kill deer. Video footage shows them doing such a lousy job, they had to finish off the deer by suffocating them with plastic bags while the deer thrashed about. Another nearby community is allowed to use the captive bolt method; if you have to ask, look it up. Bow hunting is no better, with at least a 55% error rate. Recently, in a community near where I live, a woman illegally hunting on too small of acreage hit a doe with an arrow and it stumbed down a few backyards to a neighbor's home, where he witnessed the woman savagely finish off the deer — ON HIS PROPERTY! She was not following hunting rules, but the city refused to even talk to the man that called to complain. If none of this gets through to you, then think about this: there is now overwhelming evidence, studies, etc. that the vast majority of our population does not like hunting, and does not want it to continue. Your days are numbered, and we most certainly will see the end of deer hunting on private property in smaller communities, as well as these egregiously hypocritical and extremely species-centric park systems. It will come to an end soon. And you will only have Jerry Springer-type TV shows as an outlet for your bloodthirst. Deer, like all other living creatures, have a right to exist for their own sake.

  56. 0
    Swattie Expat says:

    Mr. Ethan Bogdan,

    That was the most convoluted, ostensibly fact-filled, non-violent diss of a person I have read in a long time. You managed to call Argos a rogue biologist without a conscience, declare everyone involved in the decision about sharpshooting an ignorant twit inferior to your own majesty, and basically take a piss on any view of the world that doesn't exactly match your own. I almost have a lot of respect for you. Unfortunately, your opinions and philosophy are those of a nutjob.

    As to the humane aspect, I can scarcely think of a better way to die than a bullet in the brain. It's totally painless (or at a minimum very, very painless considering the time to die is probably going to be measured in milliseconds) and is sudden, requiring no psychological pain such as fear of death or capture. Argos rightfully pointed out that your utilitarian viewpoint is simply frightening if you start considering animals on par with humans (and this is a statement coming from a ruthless asshole that thinks most humans are entirely worthless). Your "greatest expected returns" result is based entirely on this philosophical view that nobody in their right mind should hold. Also, did you factor the people that would get to eat the deer into your analysis of aggregated utility? Deer jerky is one of the most delicious foods known to man. Seriously, the utility function for (Jerky, Other stuff) must be U(Jerky, Other stuff) = Jerky^12 + Other stuff. Go tag along with SHIP sometime and explain to their people that they could have had delicious jerky if you didn't think deer were worth more than they were.

    And now for some nitpicking of your phrasing!

    "Throughout this process, I have been in communication with activists across the nation, some of whom have given their lives to combating hunting and lethal deer management."

    What, did they jump in front of the rifle and take a bullet for a deer? It's usually a bad idea to take advice from insane people.

    "Your personal skepticism should not stop Swarthmore, an institution with a conscience, from putting two and two together, seeing the great potential of this new technology, a technology that is already being used on free-ranging animals at the University of California-Davis, and making an honest effort to uphold its founding principles."

    I'm usually a big fan of hyperbole, but I don't think Swarthmore was founded on the idea of not shooting deer. Then again, maybe you know more about Quaker ideology than I do.

    In closing, you seem to be a deer-hugging (but strangely not tree-hugging?), idealistic, vocally opinionated fellow that is fairly intelligent but applies his mind to worthless pursuits involving cushy progressive/ultra-left ideals when you could be solving real problems in the world while you take a year between high school and college because you're a sheltered coward that can't stand to be away from Mommy.

    Welcome to Swarthmore, you'll fit right in.

  57. 0
    Ethan Bogdan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Answer (to question in comment #26): There is also an adjuvant with the product name "AdjuVac." There's a technical discussion of GonaCon at the following link, but that's pretty much the extent of my knowledge: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/nwrc/research/reproductive_control/gnrh.shtml

    Question for you: What makes you so sure that darts can't inject the vaccine into muscle tissue? The majority of my research has shown that both PZP and GonaCon can be administered remotely via darts. When these projectiles hit their targets, brief explosive charges are fired that deliver the vaccines as deeply into the flesh as they need to penetrate.

    Argos, it is true that contraception has not yet been proven to reduce wild deer populations to the carrying capacity of the Crum Woods. There hasn't been enough interest in ecology to conduct a study like that; most communities just care about reducing deer-human conflicts. So is there a degree of uncertainty involved in this discussion? Of course. But the absence of such data does not belie the positive implications of the studies that have already been conducted.

    From tests on deer populations in Maryland, New Jersey, and New York, we know that the drug works: a single dose renders 80% of female deer infertile for up to 5 years, a second dose 100% for life. Over the course of 6 years, one population was reduced by over 50%, while another was reduced by 40% in 5 years. And from information that Bryon Schlisser himself provided on April 25, 2007 in Science Center 101, we know that wild deer, especially in suburban settings, live in small, fixed home ranges and have a relatively low dispersal rate (1-20%). In fact, deer may even starve to death before moving beyond the bounds of their home ranges. Schlisser repeatedly made the point that "there is no vacuum effect," meaning that lowering deer numbers in one area won't just result in an influx of deer from another. Thus "free-ranging" deer populations in areas like the Crum Woods can be expected to respond to contraception not unlike populations on islands or the populations that were the subjects of these studies.

    Your personal skepticism should not stop Swarthmore, an institution with a conscience, from putting two and two together, seeing the great potential of this new technology, a technology that is already being used on free-ranging animals at the University of California-Davis, and making an honest effort to uphold its founding principles. Beyond the inherent moral loss of the lives of the does who would be killed in the initial shoot, there is the survivor's tale of the fawns. They certainly aren't born in the winter, but by the time the winter comes around fawns are still living with their mothers and, if given the chance, they would spend at least another six months with them, after which point doe and fawn might still regroup come the following fall.

    If you find it sentimental, childish, or naïve to take the interests of non-human animals into consideration, then you have drawn something of an axiomatic line between us. I harbor no illusions about man's monopoly on sentience, and I firmly believe that it would be selfish of Swarthmore to proceed with a cull that disproportionately favors its own, human interests.

    If your sole concern is for the plants, then I won't keep debating you. From a purely ecological, (and, in my view, untenable), standpoint, it may be marginally safer to kill the excess deer in one fell swoop and just be done with the whole thing. But, rather than culling and then giving contraceptives to the deer who remain, (which would likely result in overcompensation), I see no reason not to administer contraceptives first, and then cull if and only if the contraceptives prove insufficient. Even if we resign ourselves to the necessity of sharpshooting at some point in the future, by using GonaCon first and assessing its efficacy, we'll be able to minimize the number of deer that we need to kill. This isn't fooling around: it's ethical stewardship, and responsible monitoring will ensure that the future of the Crum Woods is never genuinely endangered.

    Acting in time is important, but acting "as quickly as possible" was never part of the plan, especially if it meant discarding values that were of more profound importance. Besides, the Stewardship Committee has already dragged its feet for over eight years; are we to believe that it's suddenly in a rush?

    I'm not planning on starting any gang fights, (and I do wonder whether you can speak for the entire biology department anyway), but you should know that I am not just a lone voice. Throughout this process, I have been in communication with activists across the nation, some of whom have given their lives to combating hunting and lethal deer management. The volunteers on the Stewardship Committee are presumably responsible individuals invested in preserving the Crum Woods for academic and recreational purposes, but their authority is not absolute, and their decisions are not infallible.

    Evidently, there is no, single, decisive way to view deer management. Otherwise, there wouldn't be any discussion on this issue, and the Stewardship Committee might have taken action over five years ago, in accordance with the findings of the original Natural Lands Trust report.

    But, of all the options we have before us, I am convinced that the solution I have proposed yields the greatest expected returns for all species involved. The Stewardship Committee has been blinded by the wisdom of tradition and biased by the prejudice of speciesism, and it's time that they reconsider their decision.

  58. 0
    Ethan Bogdan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Lang, thank you for your respectful observations. I believe that I address the latter half of your message in the long response that I'm about to post. As for your first question, this does seem to be a point of confusion. My conclusion is based partly on the fact that the Stewardship Committee has waited over five years before taking any action and partly on comments made by NRC's Bryon Schlisser. As you probably read in my editorial, at the 2007 community meeting, he stated, "I think you'll find recovery here may be very quick… within a few years… most people wait [longer before they start taking actions to manage]…" I also know that the NLT report listed deer management as only the fifth most urgent concern facing the Crum Woods, (or alternately the seventh, if funding was short). As far as I can tell, Argos' conclusion is based on personal observations made during summer research. Honestly, I'm not sure which of us has a more accurate assessment of the state of the forest, but I believe that my arguments still stand. If the Committee sees the forest getting to the point where it absolutely needs immediate attention, if it feels the forest is on the edge of threshold beyond which there is no return, then it will act accordingly. Right now, its options are still open.

  59. 0
    Lang Haynes says:

    I have a couple of questions about this discussion:

    1. Ethan's argument is largely based on the fact that the Crum Woods are not in any immediate danger, so it would not be terribly detrimental to the lasting health and biodiversity of the woods if immunosterilization were to not be effective, and culling the deer then had to be implemented in a few years. Argos' argument is largely based on the grounds that, from field observation and study, it is clear that the Crum Woods ecosystem is in grave danger of losing further biodiversity, so we can't wait for the population to decrease gradually, which would be the case IF the drug worked under these conditions. These two conclusions make it seem impossible that they are using the same data. Where are different folks getting their information from, and can they link to it?

    2. Ethan, how does post #29 affects your idea of what to do?

    On another note, Ethan, what I see to be a larger problem is the issue of what circumstances GonaCon works under. The CNR article that you cite in your piece makes the point that, given the lay of the land, should we sterilize the necessary amount of deer, others would come in, and the necessary effect would not be produced. This point is reinforced by a piece of information given in the 2003 Cons. & Stewardship Plan that you cite, which says, "Contraception, although very expensive and labor-intensive, has proven effective in arresting population growth under the right circumstances… . Appropriate situations, however, are limited to small, contained populations such as on islands or in fenced parks and zoos."

    P.S. Thank you for raising this issue. It's one that I was unaware of. I do not know that I agree with your plan of action, but it has nevertheless made me question the topic more.

  60. 0
    Ethan Bogdan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Carolyn, if you look back to comment #14, you'll see I've already expressed my stance on deer-vehicle collisions. There are proven ways to keep deer out of the road without killing them.

    I didn't reply to your earlier question because it seemed a little off-topic. I fully agree with you that mankind, has a whole, may well be making this planet a worse place. However, I still believe that science has significantly improved our quality of life, and I do not object to the application of science to the natural world in an effort to compensate for the destruction that we are wreaking upon it.

  61. 0
    Carolyn Whipple ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    One more comment before I go to bed:

    Ethan, if you lived around here you would see the huge number of deer carcasses on the roadside and along the train tracks.

    The reason why so many deer get hit (and die brutal, excruciating deaths) is because there are so many of them that they have to spread out to look for more food.

    Sharpshooting is by far a more humane way, and obviously a more controlled, effective way to lower deer populations than forcing them to cross highways and train tracks and getting hit to look for food, shelter, and space, or having them starve to death because there is not enough food.

  62. 0
    Argos says:

    Carolyn – Agreed.

    Ethan – GonaCon is under the oversight of both the EPA and the FDA.

    So they cost a few hundred bucks per deer. If one is more than the other, it's probably by a small margin. I'd say financial arguments are out. Keep it strictly ecological is my plan.

  63. 0
    Ethan Bogdan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Michael, GonaCon is currently under the oversight of the EPA, not the FDA. It has, in fact, already been proven that meat from deer injected with this drug is safe for human consumption, and official registration and approval of GonaCon is expected to come very soon. The expense estimate you have quoted is outdated. Try this link: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/wildlife_damage/content/printable_version/faq_gonacon_bc_deer_08.pdf It states that the cost can be up to several hundred dollars per deer. This is not so far from the expected cost per kill by a professional sharpshooter, and, if you look at my napkin calculations above, you'll see that costs still work out in favor of contraception in the long run.

  64. 0
    Carolyn Whipple ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I admittedly should not have simplified that so much. It is true that what is "natural" these days is a gray area. I *am* generally against a good deal of the medications out there now; people pump themselves full of unnecessary drugs. But even though I think it is really unfortunate when people are genetically doomed to have certain medical problems, and I would not advocate ridding the world of drugs, I think most scientific developments have only made humans more likely to not take responsibility for themselves or their actions.

    That said, natural selection does a fairly decent job of things. And most human-manipulated scientific developments try to defy natural selection. For non-human creatures especially, it seems that we may want to stick as close to what would happen if humans weren't there as we can.

    In any case, I think we are arguing for basically same side here, Argos, and my last comment was oversimplified (possibly as a result of thesis-related exhaustion).

  65. 0
    Michael Roswell '11 says:

    To clarify what the report says about FDA approval, and to cite the USDA's cost estimates for GonaCon:

    We are not legally able to use contraceptives with our deer because the deer that pass through the Crum are legally edible, and GonaCon has not met FDA approval. That is, if we load up the meat with (even a probably benign) antibody, we make the deer less suitable for human consumption.

    The USDA estimates $500-$1000 to trap or dart a deer.

  66. 0
    Argos says:

    I'd knock down the "happier" statement straight off. Modern society is miserable, and the longer you get to live, the more likely you are to develop weird-ass diseases and become immensely sick of life.

    We're healthier in some ways, though by battling senescence we have to deal with a lot of deteriorating bodies. Ugh.

    However, I don't fully understand what you're saying. The natural world has certainly changed in its function, and with our advent began to function for the worse, but if one defines natural processes as processes natural to the known world, scientific advances just take the basic principals by which the world functions and manipulates them for various ends. Some of those ends suck, and are accomplished by questionable means, but not all drugs are bad. Anyway, medicine often steps in where nature fails. Pancreas ceases to function, take insulin. Etc.

  67. 0
    Carolyn Whipple ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Just so you know I'm not making it up: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/lpa/pubs/fsheet_faq_notice/faq_wsgonacondeer.html

    Ethan, I'd like to revisit a reply you made to a comment of mine earlier, in which you said, "Carolyn, there is nothing fundamental about your assertion that "nature should be allowed to run its course." People live longer, healthier, and happier lives now thanks to scientific advancements that defy the course of nature."

    Do you *really* hold the firm belief that chemicals and drugs and everything else developed in a lab can really do nature's job better than nature itself??

    This seems to imply that the way nature functioned for thousands of years before humans was in some way, subpar. Is that really what you think?

  68. 0
    Argos says:

    You've provided no evidence that contraception works except for telling us that it works. Even the developers of this lauded vaccine have stated that it needs to be implemented along with other methods.

    No one here suggested returning predators to the ecosystem. That is obviously not a viable solution, though I might advocate using predator control to keep the number of students at Swat at an acceptable level. Our examples involving predators were designed to make sure that you understand that nature and 'Bambi' are not one and the same, and that the reason we need to kill the deer is that we have destroyed the original forests and extirpated predators from this part of the continent. The forest is too small to support wolves, but the niche once filled by them remains empty. Therefore we should fill it ourselves, and try actually working with the ecosystem for once.

    You are currently up against the Stewardship Committee, the scientists who came up with this vaccine, and Swarthmore's Biology department. You are choosing to argue on the basis of statements that are not supported with reasonably decisive, experimental evidence.

    What is the "very good reason" to believe that contraception will work? And why is biodiversity not a substantial enough argument for the implementation of immediate and effective population control? The decline in biodiversity is essentially why we need to reduce the deer population. We're facing localized extinctions of sugar maples along with several other native trees, coupled with the establishment of a herb layer consisting of garlic mustard, a couple invasive lianas, and not much else.

    By the way, you cited the problems with Fairmount Park's deer culling. That is not carried out by professional sharpshooters, but by recreational bow-hunters. As in those deer are just being shot at with arrows. Bullets will be far more effective.

  69. 0
    Carolyn Whipple ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Q. Will GonaCon eliminate the need for hunting?
    A. No. Contraception alone cannot reduce overabundant deer populations to healthy levels. GonaCon is a tool to be used in conjunction with other wildlife management methods.

    That is from aphis.usda.gov (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service)

  70. 0
    Ethan Bogdan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Argos, I have done extensive research on the issue of deer management in the Crum Woods, and reading the NRC report was my first step. I won't list all the other reports I've read, but please don't just assume that I don't know the facts.

    I agree that "putting down the moral philosophy" would be a good idea at this point, as your comments have only pushed us farther from the matter at hand. I would point out the circular nature of defining suffering as an ability to respond to pain stimuli, I would take your bait regarding utilitarianism, and I would reply to Carolyn's case for naturalism, but to do so would not contribute to any substantive, productive arguments either in favor of or in opposition to the deer cull.

    This isn't a hypothetical situation, it isn't about the larger impact of humans on the planet, and it certainly isn't about searching out every possible way in which humans might justifiably favor their own interests over those of animals. This deer situation is real and already upon us, and we can't just bring large predators back into the Crum Woods, even if some of us might want to. We as humans need to find some way to manage the deer population ourselves, and the most ethical, long-term solution is to use immunocontraceptive vaccines. That's the bottom line.

    GonaCon won't throw off the balance of nature, because it is safe and there are no predators who eat the deer anyway. There is no convincing argument along financial lines, either. Even the case for biodiversity can only go so far. Of course we want to restore the Crum Woods, and we want to make sure this happens before the deer have caused permanent, irreversible damage. But, once again, there is very good reason to believe that contraception can meet this goal. And if the Crum Woods Stewardship Committee determines, after implementing non-lethal methods and observing their results, that a different course of action is necessary, then, and only then, should we even consider killing the deer.

  71. 0
    AD says:

    You really think that you figured it out? That the report got it wrong, and you have just discovered how financially inefficient deer culling is?

    All your googled links and hypotheticals show is that contraception is theoretically possible, and that in some cases, deer culling might have to be done more than once. I am sure that the Stewardship Committee knows these two quite-obvious facts, and I am further sure that they know a whole lot more too about the costs of the two methods. So what's my evidence? It's that the Stewardship Committee knows more than you do, and they have no reason to lie about the fact that contraception is not financially viable.

  72. 0
    Argos says:

    "Although immunocontraception vaccines offer promise for wildlife management, no fertility control agents have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration or the Environmental Protection Agency. In addition to the regulatory hurdles, contraception is experimental in nature and has not been shown to be an effective management tool for free-ranging deer populations such as those inhabiting the Crum Woods. To date, no field studies document that this method could reduce deer to the densities required to meet the management goals of the Crum Woods. Finally, in order to be effective, the deer would need to have limited scale of movement and maintain low dispersal rates. The available published literature does not support the conclusion that this approach would be an effective deer management technique in the Crum Woods."


    Full pdf report is also available, though it is tediously long.

    Now, we have a conservative estimate of 29 deer/squ mile, which is, according to that same report, between 40-60% of the actual number. In order to restore the woods to the point where they can regenerate, we need to eliminate a very large percentage of the deer: around 85% of the total population.

    I don't have access to whatever research this report mentioned, and I'd like to find the relevant journal articles so I can argue this more competently, but assuming that birth control has not been proven to be an effective method in forest fragments with free ranging deer populations, and given that we are aiming for a radical reduction in population in as little time as possible, outright killing of the deer seems far more sensible from an ecological standpoint. Killing is immediate: you shoot the deer, they die, population is reduced. It does require subsequent cullings, but that really is to be expected in any aspect of forest management. If the Crum is to be restored, we need to take serious, ongoing action on several fronts. This is hardly a situation in which we should fool around with methods that may not only be ineffective but which could have potential environmental impacts.

    www-mirror.aphis.usda.gov/lpa/pubs/fsheet_faq_notice/faq_wsgonacondeer.pdf –

    The GonaCon FAQ states that their vaccine alone is not enough to reduce deer populations to a healthy level. It would have to be used in conjunction with another, probably lethal, method. If this vaccine was found to be effective, I'd be for trying it out on the deer that remained after the cull.

    Question: I've gotten the impression that this vaccine works by taking a protein found in sex hormones, linking it to a foreign protein that will elicit an immune response, and then…is that it? Immune system, in acting against this foreign agent, produces antibodies against proteins found in sex hormones, hormones are destroyed, individual is rendered infertile.
    Is there no vector? Just a gob of protein? I couldn't gather.

    Anyway, this vaccine has to be injected into muscle tissue. You aren't going to accomplish that with darts, so the deer will have to be trapped.

    In one summer of 6/hrs daily in the Crum, I saw two does. Evidently our deer are nocturnal. Capturing and trapping ~20 does/squ mile at night would be immensely impractical, and the administered treatment would be of questionable effectiveness.

    Birth control alone is not a reasonable solution.

  73. 0
    Ethan Bogdan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    AD, the report issued by Natural Resource Consultants supports the notion that contraception could be effective in suburban communities. The estimated dispersal rate of female deer in the Crum Woods region is in the range of 1-20%. This means that there is a reasonably small chance of fertile does migrating into the Crum Woods from adjoining forests and confounding efforts to lower the birth rate. Your skepticism thus seems to be unfounded, and a lack of complete certainty that GonaCon will be sufficient to manage the deer population should not prevent us from trying it before barging ahead with a sharpshoot.

    Upon what evidence is it "pretty obvious" to you that the costs of contraception so far exceed those of sharpshooting? How do you imagine that I have tried "to throw a smokescreen up?" The primary expense of employing immunocontraceptive vaccines has been that of trapping the deer, but I have already noted that this will not be necessary once GonaCon becomes commercially available. While I don't have an exact price comparison for you, I do know that both sharpshooting and administering immunocontraceptives can cost several hundred dollars per deer.

    But, for the sake of a conservative cost-benefit analysis, let's take an extreme: how about sharpshooting costs $150 per deer and contraception costs $700. Now let's consider the relative number of applications of each of these methods. Either way, the number of deer targeted in the initial year should be approximately the same, but the difference is that the immunocontraceptive vaccines won't need to be applied again for another five years, while subsequent sharpshoots will be necessary on an annual basis.

    This 5:1 ratio already puts the long-term cost of sharpshooting above that of contraception, but the difference could be even greater depending on the effects of reproductive rebound. This phenomenon "is a well documented population dynamic… Deer conceive multiple embryos but the number of fawns actually born is determined by a number of complex factors including nutrition and herd density. With competition for food reduced by a sudden drop in herd numbers, younger fawns will breed and females will give birth to twins and triplets instead of single fawns… [A 1990 report issued by New Jersey Fish and Game] shows that even during hunting seasons in which killing female deer was the objective (antlerless seasons), the remaining females had increased birthrates that not only replaced the ones killed, but increased the overall size of the herd" (http://www.pzpinfo.org/pzp_faqs.html).

    By this logic, even conservative estimates leave little doubt that contraception is financially justifiable, even if you assign no value whatsoever to the length and the quality of the lives of the Crum Woods deer.

  74. 0
    Argos says:

    Peter Singer is a philosopher. Philosophers are not required to actually know anything of value or have ideas that are grounded in reality.

    I want proof of their being self-aware, and I want that proof to be expressed in neurological terms.

    Peter Singer seems, from everything I've read by him and from the short amount of time I got to speak with him, a bit of a basket case. At any rate, he's a utilitarian, which is like combining the irrealism of a moral philosopher with the ruthlessness of a computer. Frightening.

    Give me Schopenhauer's school of ethics any day.

    Now, the way you've defined sentience. Sentience refers to one being consciously aware of having a self. Suffering could simply be defined as an ability to respond to pain stimuli. Do deer respond to stimuli? Yes, as does everything with a nervous system. Does that make them self-aware? No.

    So, what do you think about healthier forests? Would you like to have predators sequestered, fed upon animals that have died naturally, and then administer birth control to the primary consumers? Otherwise, animals preyed upon will suffer far more than if they were shot.

    You can't possibly minimize a wild animal's suffering. Nature is really mean to animals. Everything has to die eventually, and death is usually unpleasant. This is something you're going to have to learn to accept.

    And read that Crum Woods report. It provides a very good reason as to why culling is the best choice for our situation.

    By the way, there is nothing wrong with giving preference to the interests of humans over the interests of other species. Or, there is no way not to. You're vegan. You put your personal interests above an entire kingdom of species. Do you live in a house? That's land that could have gone to numerous other animals, and if we're talking utilitarianism and being non-speciesist, you've committed quite a transgression by having a house. The 'interests' of an animal involve eating lots of other organisms while not getting eaten oneself. There you go. Depriving other organisms of food while claiming others as food. Speciesism? No. Survival.

    Put down the moral philosophy and pick up an evolutionary ecology text.

  75. 0
    Carolyn Whipple ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    "There is nothing fundamental about letting nature run its course"????? That sentence makes absolutely no sense. What could possibly be more fundamental, more natural than nature doing what it has been doing since its origins?? But, I guess here is where everything becomes more and more subjective. You believe that all the science we have keeping people alive longer is actually good for the planet, while I do not. Humans are destroying the planet with our numbers alone. Humans are trying to make themselves superhuman, and it is in effect causing our planet to crumble from beneath us. Call me a cynic, call me morbid, call me a horrible person, but in the end, the number of people on this planet is what is killing it. Most of our environmental problems come from the fact that we are exhausting every resource on the planet. Even if every human reverted to subsistence level living, we still would not have enough for everyone. But, we are not talking about people here, we are talking about deer.

    I was not comparing DDT to GonaCon. I was loosely comparing the general results, regarding populations.

    I have worked extensively with naturalists, and I have emailed my co-worker about this issue. I look forward to hearing her response. I will share it with you.

  76. 0
    Ethan Bogdan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Carolyn, there is nothing fundamental about your assertion that "nature should be allowed to run its course." People live longer, healthier, and happier lives now thanks to scientific advancements that defy the course of nature. In the Crum Woods, nature can no longer do its job, so humans must indeed step in. But, where nature could only provide predators who managed populations by eating them, we now have a choice between using brute force (hunting) and using science (immunocontraceptive vaccines). Either one can produce the desired effect, and I see no reason why some misguided emulation of the forces of nature should supersede true moral consideration.

    There can be no possible basis for your fear that GonaCon will be a repeat of DDT. The drug has undergone years of testing under both the FDA and the EPA, and there have been shown to be no adverse side-effects or secondary hazards associated with its use. Moreover, as "with other vaccines, such as those used with livestock, both [GonaCon] and the antibodies produced [in response to it] are proteins. Once ingested, they are broken down by stomach acids and enzymes" (http://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/wildlife_damage/content/printable_version/faq_gonacon_bc_deer_08.pdf). DDT, on the other hand, was an organochlorine insecticide; it was designed to kill upon ingestion.

  77. 0
    Ethan Bogdan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Argos, moral principles should be the driving force behind any practical consideration; the two are not mutually exclusive. By choosing non-lethal methods, we are both valuing the interests of the deer and preserving the health of the Crum Woods.

    I don't need to defend the sentience of deer, because Peter Singer, a renowned philosopher and professor of bioethics, has already done an admirable job of it (http://www.animal-rights-library.com/texts-m/singer02.htm). In summary, sentience does not depend on intelligence or the ability to speak, but on the ability to suffer. Deer have interests, humans have interests, and we can both feel the pain of having those interests denied to us. Speciesism is about giving preferential consideration to the interests of some species over the interests of others.

    I appreciate your personal account of the state of the Crum Woods, and I assure you that I look forward to seeing the ecosystem recover just as much as anyone else. Contraception will do the job, but we may need to be more active stewards of the land in the meantime.

  78. 0
    AD says:

    "The fact remains that sharpshooting is unnecessary, unwarranted, and unscrupulous, and I do not see how an institution as forward-thinking and upstanding as the Swarthmore College I thought I knew could endorse it."

    Really Ethan? Did you read the report? The college had very good reasons for making the decision they did. It is very uncertain whether contraception would even work in an environment like the Crum, and even if it did, it would almost certainly be much more expensive. You try to throw a smokesceen up and act like the two options of cull and contraception are basically equivalent in terms of cost and effectiveness, but they just aren't.

    I am a vegetarian and a believer in the moral importance of animal welfare. But I am a realist, and understand that human welfare and animal welfare need to be balanced. Are there more humane ways to deal with the deer than a cull? Yes, but that doesn't mean there is any moral obligation to use them, there is only a moral obligation to consider the deers' welfare in the decision. In this case, it is pretty obvious that the heavy costs of implementing contraception as opposed to a cull are not outweighed by the very slight (and questionable) benefits the plan would provide for the deer. Simply put, it is not worth it for the college to devote tons of resources to save a few deer from being shot and a few fawns from being orphaned. If you truly are not an absolutist, you need to start speaking in this language of cost-benefit, and stop implying that the deers' welfare is of infinite value.

  79. 0
    Argos says:

    Yeah, Carolyn!

    Anyway, adding on to that, humans generally try to distance themselves from the natural world as much as possible. This is a place where we can fill an ecological niche that needs to be filled, and thus help save a dying ecosystem. In this part of the state, forest fragments are basically all we have left, and areas like the Crum, though they may be small, are important if we want to have any forests at all.

    Nature isn't nice, it isn't built upon human moral constructions, and it isn't going to be saved by playing strictly in terms of what we find to be moral.

    Incidentally, fawns are not born in the dead of winter, when the cull occurs.

  80. 0
    Argos says:

    You can't argue an issue of ecological sustainability based upon your own moral problems with eating meat.

    And, speaking as a pretentious asshole but also as someone who spent the entirety of last summer studying the impact of deer browsing on the Crum Woods, they are not just eating sugar maple saplings. The saplings they were eating are almost gone now. They are eating everything else. We have no understory, no shrub layer, and a monocultural herb layer consisting of invasives that, thanks to the deer clearing out the native species, were able to monopolize.

    Speciesism is a load of crap. If I'm bigoted against deer, you're bigoted against plants. You're an anti-archaeplastidist! Or maybe a metazoan supremacist.

    Also: you've described deer as sentient. Defend that statement.

    I happen to like venison chili, by the way.

  81. 0
    Carolyn Whipple ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    DDT is a perfect example of how nature was disrupted by an unnatural cause that was not an immediate killer. Big carnivores were eating fish and small animals that had eaten bugs that had eaten plants with DDT on them. Those big carnivores did not die. Their populations remained healthy for that generation. But, when things like birds of prey were laying eggs that cracked under the weight of the mother, and baby animals were born so disfigured that they could not survive, populations took a big hit, and many of those big carnivores became endangered. Making deer infertile would do something very similar.

  82. 0
    Carolyn Whipple ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    There is nothing even remotely natural about making female deer infertile. I am so bothered by people who seem to be under the impression that there is not killing in nature. Animals kill other animals. That's how the web of life works. Making deer infertile now will mean no population control now, but in a few years, when all those infertile deer die, there will be (and this seems strange) a new generation that is too small. When that happens, everything that deer eat and that eat deer will be affected. And then everything that eats or is eaten by those animals is affected.
    And yes, humans killing deer is not a one time solution, just as carnivores do not only kill a bunch of deer once. Nature *should* be allowed to run its course, which means deer dying and being eaten constantly. But, since human occupation of the land has prevented nature from running its course, humans need to stand in for those carnivores and kill (and eat) deer.

  83. 0
    Ethan Bogdan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I have already acknowledged that the Crum Woods ecosystem, like any other, requires balance, and I do not contest that deer-vehicle collisions are scary and dangerous for all parties involved. As humans and as stewards of the land, we do need to take action.

    But, as beings who are arguably capable of a sense of morality, we also need to proceed in the most ethical fashion.

    Worried about hitting deer while driving at night? Killing the deer before they can get in the way of your car isn't the answer. Roadside reflectors have been shown to reduce nighttime collisions with animals by an average of 80% (http://www.strieter-lite.com/sites.html). Alternatively, roadside fences can reduce such collision by as much as 95%.

    Concerned about the biodiversity of the Crum Woods? Then take a look at the research showing that GonaCon has successfully kept 4 out of 5 female deer infertile for 5 years – on a single dose. With a booster, its effectiveness reaches nearly 100% and has the potential to render a doe infertile for life. On New York's Fire Island, contraception reduced deer numbers by 60% in only six years. The National Park Service is considering the use of immunocontraceptives at Pennsylvania's Valley Forge National Historical Park, and the University of California-Davis is currently using the same drug to control its rampant squirrel population.

    By comparison, sharpshooting is actually relatively ineffective. Every winter, a hunter will come in and kill deer. During the rest of the year, the population will grow again, and some studies have actually shown that the rebound following a hunt can be so great that the deer population ends up larger than it started. So another hunter will come in to do some more shooting, and the cycle will repeat. Sharpshooting is not a long-term solution, and, year by year, the costs will add up. (And if we're prepared to let that happen, we might as well administer a new set of contraceptives every year, just for the heck of it; you can't argue that that wouldn't provide enough population control!)

    I'm not an absolutist, and I don't take the stand that killing is a fundamental evil to be avoided in every situation. But I do value life, whether it manifests itself in a human or a deer, and my research has shown that science is up to the challenge of managing wildlife by non-lethal means. It makes no difference to me how long it has taken the Crum Woods Stewardship Committee to arrive at the wrong decision. It is a decision born from a speciesist mindset, the same mindset that allows us to joke about venison chili, to worry about "bureaucratic tape," and to obstruct discussion with futile counter-suggestions like enforcing vegetarianism on the entire Swarthmore campus, when actual, sentient lives hang in the balance.

  84. 0
    L says:

    Carolyn–How do you know that contraceptives would not provide enough population control?
    Swattie Expat–How is what Ethan said "intellectually dishonest"? Maybe a bit sloppily stated, but not intellectually dishonest. All his statement says is that cost of contraceptives vs. sharpshooting is an invalid argument against using contraceptive methods to control the deer propulation.
    It disturbs me that no one seems to care that deer have flourished in the Crum because it is one of the few remaining healthy forested spaces in this area: our species has destroyed the rest. Instead of being humane and sympathetic and accepting that WE created this problem, we look at the deer as nuisances who are destroying our lovely woods by their own will or something and thus need to be killed.
    And to reiterate what a few others have said: it's just silly to suggest that people interested in animal welfare should be allocating all their energy and time to protesting meat consumption in Sharples. I am constantly suggesting that Sharples include more vegan options and telling friends about the benefits of a vegan lifestyle, but that doesn't mean I can't speak up against the deer cull, too. Convincing people to create less of a demand for meat in Sharples requires convincing them that they need to change the mindset and lifestyle they were brought up with. This is a difficult task and it takes time and careful planning. The deer cull is an entirely different situation and requires the immediate action of protesters to convince authorities to forgo sharpshooting and choose a more humane option. This makes a strong statement to our school's surrounding area as well as other schools who may have similar animal overpopulation problems on their property. Neither issue should be ignored. Would you tell activists fighting, say, racism that they should dedicate all their time to one Swarthmore-specific situation and ignore all other situations?

  85. 0
    Carolyn Whipple ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is all about balance and population control. The reason the deer need to be killed is that they have no natural predators in the area. If coyotes or fishers were killing the deer and keeping the population under control, no one would have a problem with the deer dying. However, because this is a heavily populated area, there is a distinct lack of large carnivores (and even omnivores). Because people have taken the place of natural predators, people need to perform their duties and control the population. Contraceptives cannot provide enough population control, and, is far less similar to a natural situation (of meat-eaters eating the deer) than sharpshooters harvesting deer to be consumed.

    We would not be disrupting the flow of nature (we already did that by building houses and highways on the land), we would be helping to assume the duties of the predators we displaced.

  86. 0
    Swattie Expat says:

    "I do have to correct a few of the statements you've made about immunocontraceptive vaccines, however. A single dose of the most promising drug, GonaCon, has a cost in the range of $2-10, while the death of a single deer by professional sharpshooter has a cost in the range of $100-350. True, with labor factored in, these numbers become a lot closer, but expense just isn't a strong argument."

    Why even make a point if you're going to then admit that what you just said was intellectually dishonest? A single bullet is a lot less than $2-$10, you know, if we just cut out all the other factors in the price to make our figures look better. Say something worthwhile or don't talk.

    Also, to whomever edited this for publication on The Gazette, what's with the gratuitous use of hyperlinks? The author actually linked what, 4 articles? And you make it look like this had as many references as a thesis. Clean those up.

  87. 0
    Veg also says:

    I disagree with the argument that we should be protesting chicken and cows being eaten at Sharples if we support rethink deer culling. I would support people eating less meat in general, but the deer cull issue doesn't need to be about pitting vegetarians against nonvegetarians. It's a question of respecting and cherishing life. I think we should seriously explore and reconsider different ways of protecting Crum Woods before killing its deer and leaving many of their young unprotected.

  88. 0
    Myles Louis Dakan says:

    I'd like to encourage everyone to look at the Crum Woods Stewardship Committee's website: http://www.swarthmore.edu/x16863.xml. A lot people, including professors and other students, have put a lot of time into choosing the best, most ethical path.

    The forest may not be in the state that this contractor typically encounters, but it is in serious peril. Most of the herbaceous plants are foreign invasives, and over much of the Crum few non-mature trees have survived. Ethan, your activism is laudable, but your focus on saving deer is misguided.

  89. 0
    M says:

    Someone has seen the movie Bambi too many times. Too many deer are a threat to the ecosystem and dangerous to drivers on the roads surrounding the Crum. Kudos to the college for responsibly managing the situation before it's a problem.

  90. 0
    Veg says:

    I agree with 'non-veg', I think a much more important issue would be to limit meat consumption as a community at Swat. The Crum is not in great shape, I do not know how much more bureaucratic tape the school would have to get through to try this contraceptive technique, but I assume that it was considered by the college. I think the most 'fair' solution is to just reintroduce native predators in to the area, but then we'll get complaints from parents about wolf attacks. I am very strongly opposed to killing, but I think this situation goes under the greater good category.

  91. 0
    Non Veg says:

    I don't understand why everyone protests 20 deer being killed while I don't know how many chicken and cows are consumed in Sharples everyday. Why no Protest? Because they're worried about lash back?
    If all live is precious then stick up for your beliefs and then I'll respect the morality of which you speak.
    It really can't be an endangered species thing, right? Deer are about as endangered as the meat on my plate every night.

  92. 0
    Dr House says:

    "Donating the meat that's safe to eat is a nice thing to do, but it doesn't justify the sharpshoot any more than becoming cannibals would justify the war in Iraq."

    A modern Jonathan Swift (but much less funny and satirical, but something tells me you weren't even trying to be, despite the hilarious context of shooting deer). I'd really like to see you justify this statement.

  93. 0
    Deer Hater says:

    Oh please, deer are pests and the sheer abundance of them in this area is dangerous especially for the amount of traffic on the roads. I often see them early in the morning either in the road (i.e. wandering down Yale) or in people's yards. Ever hit a a deer, Ethan? It's one of the scariest things ever and apart from damaging one's vehicle itself, the driver can also be seriously injured. The less deer around here, the better.

    Perhaps Sharples should put venison chili on the menu . . .

  94. 0
    Ethan Bogdan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Sharpshooting is a lot less clean than it sounds. Nearly every source of information that I've found agrees that the quality and effectiveness of sharpshoot "harvests" can vary widely depending on the contractor that is hired. And don't be so sure that the hunter who comes to campus will be an "expert," either – Schlisser has suggested to the College that it save money by training its own sharpshooter and then paying this inexperienced individual lower wages. For an example of a deer cull gone bad, just take a look at what recently happened in nearby Fairmount Park.

    But sure, if everything were to go according to plan, then the greatest suffering would come not from the does who were killed by a bullet to the brain, but from the equal number of fawns who were left behind.

    I do have to correct a few of the statements you've made about immunocontraceptive vaccines, however. A single dose of the most promising drug, GonaCon, has a cost in the range of $2-10, while the death of a single deer by professional sharpshooter has a cost in the range of $100-350. True, with labor factored in, these numbers become a lot closer, but expense just isn't a strong argument.

    You're also mistaken on the point of capturing the deer. If Swarthmore were to employ GonaCon on a "rigidly controlled" experimental basis, then it would indeed be required to tag each deer before injecting it with the vaccine. However, tagging does not have to mean capture. The Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) vaccine, which has been in use since the late 1980s, is often administered by special marker darts. Fired from a distance, these can simultaneously inject the drug and mark each deer with a bright-colored dye. The entire process is fast, painless and safe.

    Personally, I think it would be a great idea for Swarthmore to get involved in research like this, and I know that U. Penn. has carried out studies on deer contraception. But, that being said, I never made this suggestion in my article. GonaCon is on a track to become commercially available within a year, and once it reaches that point, there will be no more need for tagging.

    Wasting disease and lead poisoning are legitimate concerns, but no, I won't complain, because this point really isn't even relevant. Donating the meat that's safe to eat is a nice thing to do, but it doesn't justify the sharpshoot any more than becoming cannibals would justify the war in Iraq. And there's nothing sentimental about that.

    It's true that we can't fence in every native species, but, once again, I never proposed that the College undertake to do so. The primary concern is that the deer are eating too many saplings, and that the forest will therefore stop being able to replenish itself. Over time, this may result in effective gaps in the forest, which in turn contribute to fragmentation. To preserve the integrity of the Crum Woods, exclosures can be strategically placed in the areas that are at the greatest risk of wearing thin. Fences could also be used to preserve particular instances of species present in relatively small numbers; these islands would spread and rejoin as soon as the deer count had dropped sufficiently.

    Because the fact is that choosing non-lethal methods will not mean failing to control the deer population. It won't mean letting the deer ravage the forest, which is still in a relatively healthy condition. Immunocontraceptives have been proven to work, and it is our moral obligation to try employing them in the Crum Woods before we resort to killing. Should these non-lethal means fail, it's not as though we'd be gambling the biodiversity the forest. The Crum Woods Stewardship Committee has arranged to monitor the success of any plan that they implement, and if anything goes wrong, they'll be the first to know, and they will respond accordingly.

  95. 0
    Argos says:

    The deer are going to be culled by expert sharpshooters, meaning they will die with minimal pain. Should we fail to control their population, not only will the ecosystem suffer more than it already has, but the deer will die slowly from starvation.
    Contraceptive vaccines are impractical for a number of reasons. They're expensive, especially when we have this many deer to deal with, they can't be administered indiscriminately through bait, and their employment would involve actually capturing all of the deer. And we have a lot of deer.
    Baiting wouldn't work because it would harm other species within the Crum: raccoons, foxes, opossums, etc, and of course we couldn't guarantee that every, or even most, of the deer would ingest the bait.
    Specific floral species and fencing?
    It isn't as if the native species, which are the ones the deer prefer to eat, are concentrated within specific areas of the forest. We can't just find every native plant and fence it in: that would be insane. Even if we did, the deer would ravage whatever is left, deprived of their normal food.

    You can't simply value the lives of deer over the lives of every other species in the forest. It is a delicate and interdependent system, too fragile to be subjected to the whims of human emotion.

    In a situation where deer do not need to be culled, it is generally because they are being preyed upon. Death by a pack of wolves is far more unpleasant than death by bullet. Deer fill an ecological niche that involves them being killed and eaten by something. That's how nature works.

    And: It's state law that all animals hunted/culled be processed for human consumption. If they're culled, they have to be donated to food programs.

    And no complaints about diseases in deer. They're more nutrient dense, automatically free range, and harbor fewer health problems than grain-fed factory-farmed cattle.

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