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Activists bucking proposed deer hunt

Commission weighing measure to thin herds in Loomis, Granite Bay
By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein, Gold Country News Service
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Loomis resident Georgia Kern encountered Placer County’s surging deer population head on — with the front of her Subaru. “The deer just shot out from the right-hand side of road,” Kern recalled of the night a couple of months ago, when she was driving past Sierra College in Rocklin. “If it was a full-grown buck I could have been seriously injured or it could have gone through the windshield.” On Wednesday, Placer County’s Fish and Game Commission will decide whether to recommend to supervisors a special doe hunt in an effort to thin the herd in Loomis and Granite Bay. One proposal is to open the hunt only to children ages 12-17. But that’s raised the hackles of some animal-rights activists, who say an organized hunt is an unnecessary and inhumane response that potentially jeopardizes residents’ safety. “It’s a residential area,” said Victoria Connolly of Auburn. “When people move to a rural area they should be aware that there’s deer around.” If supervisors like the idea, it would still have to go through the state Fish and Game Commission, which would be tasked with organizing the event. The issue came to the fore after Supervisor Kirk Uhler asked county staff to look into whether deer accidents had increased on area roads. “When I witnessed my first, second and then third vehicle deer-strike in six months, I thought, ‘I don’t remember this ever being the case growing up,’” said Uhler, of Granite Bay. Statistics from Placer County Animal Services showed the so-called “deer strikes” increased from nine in 2006 to 59 the next year and 92 in 2008. Although local deer surveys are out of date, officials say they believe the accidents signal a deer population that’s much too abundant. “In a lot of similar areas, just because of landscaping and irrigation, there’s a lot of foraging for the deer, so the deer are having a lot of offspring,” said Joshua Huntsinger, the county’s deputy agriculture commissioner. Car accidents aren’t the only concern. Huntsinger said an overabundance of deer can lead to increased disease among the animals. Currently, residents are allowed to hunt two bucks a year in the Granite Bay and Loomis area. A youth doe-hunt would go further in controlling the deer population, and has the added benefit of bringing in revenue since hunters must pay to participate, Huntsinger said. Huntsinger said it could take the form of a bow-only or shotgun hunt. But Loomis animal-rights activist Teresa Barnato said promoting hunting shouldn’t be an option. “I think that’s totally self-serving argument to make on behalf of someone who wants to go out and kill animals,” she said. The problem, she said, lies with rampant development that’s forced animals into more contact with humans. That puts the onus on people to “have some respect for the rest of the individuals who live with us,” she said, referring to animals. She added that deer populations are self-correcting, and will eventually decline as foliage dies out because of the drought. “And I think it sends the wrong message to children about the values of animals and teaches them violence,” she said. “They really are trying to get children inducted into the hunting activities at an early age because hunting is in decline.” Loomis hunter Mike Roberts disagrees. “If they’re OK with having people hit them with cars, then OK,” he said. That’s what concerns Kern, who is still haunted by the image of the buck she hit. After the strike, she watched helplessly as another vehicle hit the animal, a young buck. Then she got out of her car and pulled it off the road, where it could die in peace, she said. “It was the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen,” said Kern, who raises horses on her Loomis property and supports efforts to control the population through hunting. “There are times when things need to be thinned out to actually make it more healthy.” Nathan Donato-Weinstein can be reached at nathand@goldcountrymedia.com