Catalina Island is 22 miles long and 8 miles wide. There are only two small cities inside the 4,200-acre island, located 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles. Ninety percent of the land is natural and managed by a conservancy. Catalina Island is home to 3,400 permanent residents and 2,000 mule deer. Right now the deer are winning. 

The non-native species of deer are over-grazing and destroying the native plants on the 42,000 acre island and the conservancy that manages 90 percent of the land, want them gone. A deer cull has been proposed by the Catalina Island Conservancy to return the island to its “natural state” but that’s not going over well. The LA County Sheriff asked the conservancy director to leave the island after death threats. 

Over the decades, the conservancy has managed non-native populations of goats, pigs and bison, through trapping and relocation. The remaining herd of bison, around 90 head, are currently on birth control. But the deer have over-grazed the island’s native plants and are now venturing into home gardens.  The conservancy calls the mule deer the “most destructive invasive animal left on the island. The plan, supported by California Fish and Wildlife, is to hire sharpshooters to kill the deer from helicopters. But before a single shot is fired, residents are firing back at the conservancy’s plan. Claiming they were not “involved” residents asked city council members and county commissioners to intervene. City council responded with a no hunting on city property ordinance and county commissioners do not have jurisdiction, so residents have taken it upon themselves to voice their opposition. The local newspaper has sold ads against the deer slaughter, protestors with signs greet the one million visitors that arrive via ferry every year. And threats of violence have against conservancy staff have occurred. Voice messages to the director have include “we have guns and know how to use them”, a suspicious package caused an evacuation of the conservancy headquarters, and nationally a petition with more than 12,00 signatures is raising money to fight the deer kill.