evil (DeNicola) animal serial killer now in Maine
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Monhegan deer eradication tantalizes B.I.
By Read Kingsbury . Monday, July 28, 2008 2:41 PM EDT
On Monhegan Island, a little rock of a place 10 miles off the coast of
Maine, Dr. Anthony DeNicola and his White Buffalo Inc. employees removed
more than 100 deer between 1996-1999.
Getting the last of the herd, usually very difficult, proved to be easier
than expected, he said in a phone interview.
"There was a fresh snow and we flew up there right away," he said. "We found
the tracks of a doe and two fawn and before long we found them."
Deer had been brought to Monhegan in 1955 and the herd had grown to become a
great nuisance, gnawing away at gardens and vegetation and spreading
tick-borne Lyme disease. The incidence of the disease had grown to about 13
percent and the residents, after furious debate, decided the deer had to go.
So White Buffalo of Hamden, Conn., was hired to track, bait, spotlight and
shoot down the entire herd.
White Buffalo shooters removed 72 deer the first year, 35 the second and six
the third. What followed was a short surge in Lyme disease and then a
precipitous decline. Today, it's reported, the incidence of Lyme disease is
And some Block Islanders are asking, "If it worked on Monhegan Island, why
The Block Island Residents Association asked that question in 1999 and
invited DeNicola to visit the island. He submitted a proposal; it includes
the work of five people six months a year for four years, three vehicles,
lodging, ferry trips, helicopter surveys and dogs in years three and four.
The total was $1.4 million - at which point the conversation about
eradication of deer ended on Block Island, for a while at least.
DeNicola said that number would be about $2 million today.
Why was eradication feasible on Monhegan and not on Block Island?
In the first place, there were only about 60 or 70 year-round residents on
Monhegan and "not many structures," DeNicola said. In the second place,
Monhegan is a little less than one square mile, compared to Block Island's
10. In the third place, the island cover was mostly evergreen forest, while
Block Island has much brush to provide shelter for deer.
In the fourth place, "there were no restrictions on where we could go" in
pursuit of the deer, DeNicola said.
And a final difference: on Monhegan he and his crew had permission to use
methods outlawed under normal hunting rules - rules which many states, and
definitely Rhode Island, are loath to bend.
Pigs, goats, deer
DeNicola has worked in many settings, with great success. His firm has rid
Santa Cruz Island off the West Coast, about 75 square miles, of its feral
pigs, which were destroying the environment. What made it work, DeNicola
said, was that he had to deal with only two landowners, the National Park
Service and The Nature Conservancy.
White Buffalo also cleared Catalina Island of hundreds of feral pigs and
goats that were uprooting everything. It has managed deer reduction programs
in a dozen states, deer capture programs, deer fertility programs.
DeNicola's manual, "Managing White Tailed Deer in Suburban Environments"
(available through Cornell Cooperative Extension) remains the basic
technical guide on the subject, he says. His expertise is in constant
demand; this month he will be a panelist in a Missouri community beset by
Currently, DeNicola said, he is involved in a project that he believes will
make the 4-poster system more cost effective. The system treats the necks of
deer with a pesticide when they come to eat at a feeding station; the
pesticide kills the ticks. "It works," DeNicola said, "but it's too costly
and labor-intensive for widespread use. You have to feed corn for five
months a year." The goal of the new project is to reduce both labor and cost
to what communities can afford.
Recreation or health hazard
As for Block Island, "things don't happen overnight," DeNicola said.
"Nothing can be done as long as the state fish and wildlife people treat
deer as a resource for recreational hunters." And that has been the case in
Rhode Island for years, as Block Island knows from its failed efforts to get
state permission to treat deer as a health hazard.
Many communities see deer as a threat to health, through Lyme disease. But
to conservationists, the threat to the environment of too many deer is
equally serious. Here's a New Jersey Conservation Foundation scientist,
writing in the New York Times:
"This uncontrolled population explosion of deer has led to the conversion of
our forests to a collection of alien weeds and vines in the understory, in
which there is absolutely no reproduction of native woody trees and shrubs
or herbaceous wildflowers. Our native forests and associated biodiversity
will melt away . . ." Among the victims, through loss of habitat, is much
And here, from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, is what that
state has done: "In an effort to limit deer populations in those areas of
New Jersey where sport hunting is not considered a viable management tool,
the division has permitted alternative methods of controlling deer
populations under the Community-Based Deer Management Permit (CBDMP)
program. The program was created in 1995 to explore alternative methods of
deer population control.
"Alternative control methods ... may include, but need not be limited to,
controlled hunting, shooting by an authorized agent, capture and
euthanization, capture and removal, and fertility control. The program
allows townships, airports and County Boards of Agriculture to apply for a
permit issued by the division that would allow these alternative control
Loosening the rules
New Jersey loosened its shooting rules under intense pressure on the state
legislature by citizens of deer-beleaguered communities, DeNicola said.
Today six or eight communities and counties take advantage of the alternate
deer control methods, he said.
One is Princeton Township, which had an estimated 1,600 deer and more than
300 deer were being killed in auto collisions each year. It hired White
Buffalo to whittle the herd down to 20 per square mile. A small group
bitterly opposed the hunt, went to court, and took various nastier measures.
Township officials were abused, White Buffalo operations were disrupted and
its truck tires were slashed. But after several years the herd was reduced
to about 350 and deer-auto collisions were reduced by 80 percent.
To continue the management plan, "bowhunters take 50 to 70 deer and then we
come in to remove 100 to 125," DeNicola said. Township officials said they
paid White Buffalo $54,250 last year to kill 126 deer.
Other states are loosening the rules too. Suburbs around Washington, D.C.,
Detroit and Philadelphia are hiring sharpshooters to reduce their deer
herds. Winnebago County in Illinois hired shooters to manage the herd on
county preserves. In Connecticut, some towns are devising deer control
programs. Greenwich, with special dispensation from the state fish and
wildlife division, hired White Buffalo in 2004 to kill deer for four nights
- they got 80.
These numbers are puny compared to the deer kill by state and federal
sharpshooters in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where authorities are anxious to
reduce the deer herds in order to control the spread of chronic wasting
disease and bovine tuberculosis. In one northern Minnesota hunt alone,
sharpshooters killed 962 deer this spring, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Meanwhile, the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife and Block Island
remain at loggerheads, the state unwilling to bend its rules about how deer
may be shot, the island unwilling to risk the hazards of a widespread deer
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