25 deer will be killed by end of February
Palmetto Dunes, an exclusive gated community on Hilton Head Island, expects to cull 25 whitetail deer over the next several weeks. Wildlife biologists will kill the deer by the last day of February, according to Andrew Shumacher, the CEO of Palmetto Dunes.
The reasoning for killing the deer is overpopulation which can lead to car accidents, Lyme disease risks, and destruction to landscaping and natural vegetation.
Numerous properties on the popular island have culled deer in recent years. The state Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that it is legal, even outside the regular deer hunting season. In the past 15 years, 16 gated communities on the island have killed 5030 deer as part of culling programs. Each time a community wants to cull any deer, they must present their case to the SCDNR. The agency must approve it before any deer are culled.
Palmetto Dunes and their land management company surveyed the deer population on the island last year. They determined the population was too high, and recommended killing 25 deer.
Program has led to decrease in car accidents
Community managers, state wildlife officials, and biologists on the island consider the program a success. They cite a drop in deer-car accidents as well as a drop in complaints from residents about landscape damage. They also maintain that culling deer keeps the herd healthy.
But not everyone is happy about the culling program. Carol Russell is a resident of Hilton Head, and is against the culling program.
“What happened to Hilton Head being designed around nature? I just cannot imagine a planned vacation community voting to have a sharpshooter shoot deer at night and not warn the public,” Russell told the Island Packet, Hilton Head’s local newspaper.
Fripp Island, just north of Hilton Head, has vowed to never euthanize deer as part of a culling program. And from 2005 to 2011, Fripp managed its herd through the use of an experimental birth control program. Their wildlife experts shot does with contraceptive darts, which successfully reduced the deep population on the island. But the federal government rejected to approve the drug for further development.
Sharpshooters cull the deer at night, as Russell mentioned. Hunters shoot them during the hours of darkness with guns fitted with sound suppressors. Anyone participating in the culling must be a certified wildlife biologist or have the proper credentials to be certified. They are only allowed to kill deer between the hours of 10 p.m. and 3 a.m.
Needy families also benefit from the culling. The communities process and donate the meat to a food bank. The state requires this among all communities that cull deer.