DEER OPTIONS ENTERPRISE – DOE: Non-Lethal Integrated Deer Strategy

By Anthony Marr

An animal enterprise is in the process of being created. Its name – Deer Options Enterprise or DOE. I trust that you, as animal protectionists, will understand its usefulness to communities and to the deer.

The idea came to me after completing my fourth Compassion for Animals Road Expeditions (CARE-tours – see I covered 30 states in five months, and this was the most memorable tour where deer protection is concerned.

When I traveled from state to state, I came across dozens of local campaigns. Among these, the deer campaign takes the trophy, because deer slaughter (culling) occurs in so many states.

I first encountered the problem in Ohio. I was flabbergasted. It was inconceivable to a Canadian that killing deer by the hundreds, using contract sharpshooters, captive-bolters, and bow hunters inside city limits, often in a backyard, when children are coming home from school, is not only legal, but actively promoted by city governments in OH, NJ, PA, IA, CT and CA, among other states. In all cases, this violence and cruelty are committed at considerable expense to the taxpayers. In 2004/2005, Solon, Ohio, with a population of only 23,000 and an area of only 20 square miles spent $520,000 to “cull” 1,000 deer.

To put things in moral perspective, here are some unsavory statistics about bow-hunting and captive bolting: For bow hunting, the wounding/killing ratio is about 50/50. That means that for every 100 deer shot with an arrow, 50 are staggering around with one or more arrows stuck in non-vital parts of their bodies, for days, weeks, sometimes months. Further, for every deer killed, an average of 15 arrows would have been fired. In other cities, such as Millburn, NJ, another method is used, called Captive Bolt, or Net-and-Bolt. This is a method used for killing domestic “food animals.” It involves firing a 4″ bolt into the scull of the victim. Such a method is eminently unsuitable for killing deer, because, first, they have to be captured, which imposes severe trauma on the animal, and second, an average of not one but several bolts have to be shot into the deer’s head, and into the eye, as deer struggle much more violently than a cow or a pig. Videos have shown that this method takes a long time to kill, and its degree of violence causes pain-and-terror-filled minutes before the deer dies.

I began to study these lethal techniques in depth and have come to the conclusion that lethal methods of controlling a deer population are simplistic in the extreme, and are not effective for more than a couple of years, if that. How in the world were city council members approving of these bizarre, ineffective, and uneconomical methods, when the use of non-lethal integrated methods are potentially far more effective, more permanent, more economical, and less divisive in a community?

The causes of deer overpopulation are several: the decimation of natural predators; the inadvertent creation of deer habitat (especially deforestation); the deliberate creation of deer habitat by the hunting industry (to cultivate an unnaturally high deer population for hunters); the intentional skewing of the male-female sex ratio. See

Deer populations have undergone significant increases over the last decades. This combined with the increase in the number of vehicles on the road leads to increasing DVA rates in many states.

That said, it must also be added that over half of all DVAs year-round occur during the months of November and December. In other words, during the deer hunting season! Coincidence? How about the fact that the highest daily DVA rates occur on the first day of the deer hunting season? Deer are usually very prudent in entering open spaces, such as a field or a roadway. But when hunting starts, the deer are spooked by the sudden presence of hunters in the woods, causing them to flee from the forests into traffic.

How ironic that deer hunting is hailed as a deer population reduction measure when hunting has wiped out the deer’s natural predators, has caused higher fawn births, and has caused higher DVAs. The game agencies send press releases putting the blame on deer overpopulation, and call for more hunting as a deer population control measure! All that – and we haven’t yet mentioned the Compensatory Rebound Effect. That is the phenomenon of higher births following a sudden reduction in the population.

The term “effective lethal solution” is an oxymoron if one looks past two years. If the city planners and policy makers look just ten or twenty years ahead, they would see the ineffectiveness and waste of the lethal solution. If the deer population within a city is culled by 50%, the Compensatory Rebound Effect, by which the deer’s reproductive rate is raised accordingly, would bring the deer population back up within a couple of years. So, culling deer as a solution requires deer to be culled year after year, ad infinitum, at great expense, with every year or two back to square one, and no end in sight.


Even Anthony DeNicola of White Buffalo Inc., the pre-eminent sharpshooter in 12 states, who has a monopoly on the sharp-shooting market, wrote that lethal methods are not meant to be long term. He also wrote that culling deer as a population control measure is “like mowing a lawn” – once you start doing it, you’ll have to do it again and again and again. Yet he is marketing the lethal method as a long-term measure. Of course, from his viewpoint, he stands to make millions over 25 years.

What DeNicola advocates first and foremost is fencing. I fully agree with that. Fencing is the absolute barrier which deer cannot cross. A fenced roadway is a theoretically deer-free roadway, where the DVA can theoretically be cut down to zero. All in all it is safe to say that the fencing solution can cut the DVA by over 90%, instead of 25% using lethal methods.

The economic aspect: Fencing is a one-time expense. A fence has a life expectancy of about 25 years. At an average cost of $12,000 per mile, 20 miles of fencing would cost $240,000. This would line both sides of a 10 mile roadway. Once installed, these fences require minimal maintenance for the rest of their 25 year life span. Allowing a very conservative $1,200 per mile for maintenance (10%) – comes to $24,000 per year for maintaining the 20 miles of fencing. The total cost forf25 years using fencing equals $840,000 or just under $35,000 per year.

Considering the costs for the lethal plan:

The maximum acceptable deer density in a suburban environment is set at about 20 per square mile. According to this, for a city of 100 sq. mi., the maximum deer population is 2,000. If the extant deer population is, say, 5,000, then they would cull 3,000 over two years. At about $400 per deer, the cost would be $1,200,000. Thereafter, they will have to cull about 400 deer every year or so to keep the population at 2,000, at $160,000 per year. Over25 years, this would cost $4,880,000 which averages out to $195,000 per year.

For those properties that do not accept fencing, there is a full range of deterrents and repellents, including those employing smell, taste, sound, sight, and guard dogs contained by invisible perimeter fences. What about the deer behind the fences? It depends on whether their green space is connected to the greater wilderness or not. If it is, they could be positively induced, by means of moving feed stations, to gradually out-migrate, and continuity can be created with overpasses, underpasses and corridors.

Since all of this makes sense to us, what is the problem? As a rule, city councils ignore animal advocates. So how will we win contracts? By two means:

1) Animal protectionists will educate the public about it, and seek to inform city councils and the community about it at town hall meetings, 2) Animal protection entrepreneurs will create enterprises to win city contracts, defeating the lethal operators.

There is actually one more need: Funding. If you are interested in learning more and/or investing in DOE, please contact the author at

Anthony Marr is the founder of Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE),, 604-222-1169


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