Why is Connecticut Slaughtering Deer?

Connecticut state employees slaughtered 17 deer on Charles Island last week, a move that has angered many animal advocates in the area.

Three biologists who work for the Department of Environmental Protection went to Charles Island and killed the 17 deer because they “were a threat to the habitat” and were going to starve to death for lack of adequate food. The DEP also said that the deer may have been diseased.

The conflict has led to very heated emotions, with spokespeople from the Audubon Society trading subtle barbs with those from the Humane Society, with many other smaller groups weighing in as well.

The island itself is relatively small — 14 acres total — and sits about a half mile off the coast of Connecticut. The deer wind up there because of a sandbar that they can cross to the island at low tide. Deer occasionally wander out to the island and then never come back, even though the food supplies out there are scarce.

The island serves as a nesting ground for herons and egrets and the Audubon Society favored killing the deer.  They claim the deer destroy the low vegetation on the island and are “degrading the nesting habitat” of the birds.

Serious questions about motives
The Humane Society has spoken out against the killings, pointing out that herons and egrets nest in older trees and they do so up high. Since deer neither climb trees nor cut them down, their presence should be irrelevant to the birds’ nesting habits.

The other argument, that the deer were starving, seems a flimsy excuse for shooting them. When has it ever been a good idea to save an animal’s life by shooting it? If the deer wander into areas without enough food they will either adapt, move or die out. Trying to micromanage nature’s normal processes rarely works out well for humans and almost never works out well for the animals involved, especially when our “management” techniques involve killing animals en masse.

If it were ever scientifically determined that the deer needed to leave the island, relocation is an option that authorities do not appear to be considering.  That’s probably because it’s almost always cheaper and easier to kill an animal than to move it.

A member of a local advocacy group called Friends of Animals asked why the meat from the deer was donated to a food bank if it was potentially diseased and why there was any meat to donate in the first place if the deer were starved.

Human motives questionable
Humans are often guilty of robbing Peter to pay Paul when it comes to animals, choosing selectively to eradicate some animals to protect others. Our decisions are sadly often motivated by a subjective appreciation for certain animals and a disdain for other animals.

The Audubon Society displayed a myopia characteristic of many groups that advocate on behalf of animals: they scapegoated one animal to benefit another. The thing that we always overlook when it comes to these situations is that the justifications we make up for the killing of an animal we may not like today will inevitably be used to kill an animal we might like tomorrow. 

Today a deer might be a nuisance to a heron, but how long will it be before a heron is a nuisance to another animal, or a human?

As long as “wildlife management” remains synonymous with “mass slaughter of animals” we’re going to be taking steps backward instead of forward.

Take Action! Tell The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection to stop killing deer on Charles Island.

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Save the Spotted Owl, Shoot a Barred Owl?

Hunters are Not Environmentalists

Speak Up for Wildlife in Nevada


Photo: BobMacInnes


Laurita Walters
Laurita Walters7 years ago

It seems that, on 14 acres, it would have been easy to haze them back to the sandbar and run them off. This could have been an enjoyable venture for several people one day when the sandbar is evident. Maybe even a recurring entertainment, useful for boy- and girl-scout training and outdoor learning, or high school project. Who knows?

While I enjoy deer meat and hunting, it seems like this was more "shooting fish in a barrel" than hunting.

I love the Audubon pictures but I think that the organization has a track record of killing things to look at them.

Deer ticks? Well, maybe. Ticks? Probably. Diseased? Probably not.

colleen p.
colleen p7 years ago

Athena C. Deer and other wild animals can be fragile. would it be better for animals to die on accident during shipping or the drug that makes them go to sleep? or have someone try to bring an instant kill and donate meat to the poor and homeless?

also, I wonder. if "who are we to decide their lives" and it's wrong to push our will on them by killing, then how is casteration better? a buck lives to make as many children as he can. I need solid rock proof there are Ghandis, Kings, Poes and so on of deer.

deer legacy is in the genes. when he dies he does that circule of life thing. Humans make purpose in their life with art and such.

so, if the deer eat all the food, you want them to be scared and transported elsewhere.

also more deer=more deer ticks.


Athena C.
Athena C7 years ago

Ok, so why aren't they being relocated instead of killed? Doesn't make sense to fight stupid with even more stupidity.

DeRae S.
Mr. & Mrs. Wm. S7 years ago

Diseased? If some of the deer are diseased, then they probably are. Just another excuse. The deer could be tested for disease, & if not diseased, they could be transported to another location less populated.

Yvette T.
Past Member 7 years ago

Killing not allowed by the mystical vibration that equally sustains all life. We are never to kill any being for eating, clothing, amusement, etc.

Chavonne Harvey
Chavonne H7 years ago

ridiculous behavior.

Dan B.
Dan Brook7 years ago

The best way to honor and protect animals EVERYDAY is to not eat them.

Fight cruelty with your fork; have compassion on your plate; increase social justice with every meal.

For more info about the *many* benefits of vegetarianism (and the many problems with the production and consumption of meat), please visit (and share)

Eco-Eating at www.brook.com/veg

Lisa Neste
Lisa AWAY7 years ago

Signed. Thank you! Totally inhumane.

Lindsey Williams
Lindsey Williams7 years ago

So sad.... :(

mari s.
Mari S7 years ago

I'm against the killing of the deer -- based on this article, there are a lot of questions that need answering -- when it comes to questions and actions of life and death, people should confer with each other, organizations should all come together and discuss the facts and what is best for ALL parties -- who here is protecting the deer? It was wrong to slaughter them!