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 The Hidden Reality

As this rare investigative video footage demonstrates, the slaughter of suburban deer is typically carried out under the cover of darkness and far from public purview. Those who are hired to carry out these acts do not allow their activities to be documented, and it is left to undercover investigators to bring the truth to light. In the case of suburban deer, "culling" entails bloody gunshot wounds, maiming, struggle, often lingering death, the destruction of family units, and separation of mothers from their young. There is no way to guarantee that wounded animals will not run off and suffer a lingering death in someone's backyard or careen into a roadway. Many people view the methodical slaughter of suburban deer as an expression of the culture of violence that plagues our society today. The availability of effective nonviolent alternatives only emphasizes the questionable ethics of this type of activity.

 A Holocaust Survivor's View

Singer Quote

 What You Can Do

A positive resolution of this issue depends on individual people getting involved and taking action. Even if you don't live in Cayuga Heights, you can make a difference:

1. Speak up
Contact the following decision makers and let them know your questions and concerns:

Mayor Kate Supron
(607) 257-1238

Deputy Mayor Liz Karns
(607) 257-1238

Police Chief James Steinmetz
(607) 257-1011

Cayuga Heights Trustees:
Chris Crooker email
Stephen Hamilton email
Diana Riesman email
Richard Robinson email
Peter Salton email

Phone messages for the trustees can be left at (607) 257-1238.

2. Sign our online petition
Visit for a quick and easy way to get your name added to our petition and have an email sent in your name to the decisionmakers.

3. Write a letter to the editor

The Ithaca Journal
Ithaca Times
Cornell Daily Sun

4. Sign up to receive updates

Sign up at the top of this column.

5. Help educate others
Get your friends, neighbors and colleagues involved in the public dialogue about this important issue. Begin by letting them know about this web resource. You can do that quickly and easily by clicking on the Send-to-a-Friend button.

6. Attend meetings of the Cayuga Heights Village Trustees

The Village Trustees are the decision makers. Consider attending these public meetings and letting the trustees know your questions and concerns.

Village Trustee meetings are open to the public and are held at 7 PM on the second Monday of every month.

Learn more | What you can do | Sign our Online Petition

  Muffling gun shots, disposing of heads and hooves

Cayuga Heights trustees' disturbing dialogue reveals grisly details of their deer-killing plan.
According to their plan, all but 20 deer may be baited with corn and shot in the head.
  $275,000 Mystery in Cayuga Heights

Net & Bolt Reality
Why won’t the Cayuga Heights trustees answer questions from their constituents about a budget item that comprises over 25% of the anticipated cost for their deer-killing plan? And is there a conflict of interest with a Cornell researcher who designed and supported their proposal to sterilize a small number of deer in the village and kill all the rest?

   Is It Ethical?
Why would we, as a community, consider paying others to perform deeds under the cover of darkness that most of us would be unwilling to witness, much less carry out ourselves in the full light of day?

Virtually all programs involving government-sponsored killing of suburban deer do not allow concerned citizens or members of the media to observe, much less document, the killing process or its aftermath. Consequently, the times, dates, and locations of the killing are not made public. Officials usually explain this as being necessary for safety reasons.

But Tim Setnicka, former Superintendent of the Channel Islands National Park, reveals a different motive. During his 30-year career with the Park Service, Setnicka supervised numerous large-scale wildlife killing programs. In 2005, he began to speak out against what he came to consider park superintendents "playing god."

"We never allowed the media to accompany the hunters to film the hunting activity. Safety reasons were always given as reasons for denial of their request. The real reason is that we wanted to avoid images of the ugliness of the hunt," admits Setnicka. "You watch the life drain out of their eye, which becomes dull as they die. This is an impossible image to sell the public or politicians, which is why no photos are allowed." 1

The Cover of Darkness

If a program is approved for government-sponsored killing of deer in our community, the killing will most likely be carried out by armed, out-of-town contractors, under the cover of darkness, the sound of gunshots muffled by silencers, the bodies of the dead animals carted away by municipal workers before sunrise.

Were such acts to be carried out in the light of day and memorialized in the media, most of us would be appalled by what was revealed. We certainly would not want our children to watch how unsuspecting human-habituated animals were lured with bait, and then methodically slaughtered. Most of us would be tempted to avert our eyes from the abruptness of the bullets' impact, the blood and gore, the agonizing struggle of the maimed and dying, the orphaned young, the killing of pregnant females and their unborn offspring, and yes, the life draining out of their eyes.

What, or Who?

Both the science of cognitive ethology and common sense observation indicate that individual deer, like other mammals, care about what happens to themselves and their family members. They avoid suffering and vigorously seek to escape violence and death just as we do. And as many of us have observed with our own eyes, deer exhibit many behaviors that express emotions we can easily recognize—caution, fear, curiosity, joy, protectiveness of their young.

   Meet some of the individual deer from our community who are in danger of being killed by Cayuga
   Heights' proposed bait and shoot program.    (mouseover each thumbnail to take a closer look)

Even the proponents of killing our suburban deer frequently comment on the cleverness individual deer show when evading capture or death, and how they learn to circumvent some of the protective measures taken by gardeners. Yet these same people do not seem to realize that each time they acknowledge the individuality and mental capacity of the deer, they are undermining the very foundations of their own position that killing these individuals is morally justifiable.

Few people grasp the reality of what it means to systematically kill these peaceful animals.?
Misleading Language

Those who lobby for the slaughter of suburban deer favor the use of the word "culling." But what does this word really mean? According to the dictionary, culling means to choose; select; pick; to gather the choice things or parts from; to collect; gather; pluck. In our community, the proponents of a killing program are also using a new word, "remediation," which the dictionary defines as the act of correcting an error or a fault or an evil.

John Hermanson
DRAC members advocate for killing deer, calling them a "weed species."

While there is no doubt that some people experience conflict with suburban deer, is it in any way accurate, or even rational, to refer to living creatures as "an error or a fault or an evil" that will be "corrected" through killing?

Were the English language to be used this same way to describe the killing of humans, or even dogs and cats, most of us would find it disturbing and unacceptable. Yet through constant repetition, this sort of language, and the tragic disconnect behind it, becomes normal. It passes by largely unquestioned as we apply it to the deer who are indigenous to our region and have ended up living in our backyards largely due to the man-made problem of suburban sprawl. One proponent of a killing program has even gone so far as to publicly rationalize the killing by calling the deer "a weed species." 2

photo1 photo2 photo3 photo4
These photos of the aftermath of a bait and shoot program are hard to look at, but they don't even begin to communicate the violence that is taking place in Rochester Hills, Michigan, where they are now killing suburban deer.    (click an image to enlarge it)

Once any group, human or nonhuman, is labeled as a "pest" or "weed" or unwanted interloper, those in the marginalized group fall outside of our circle of moral consideration.

First Labeling, Then Violence

Once any group, human or nonhuman, is labeled this way, as a "pest" or "weed" or unwanted interloper, those in the marginalized group fall outside of our circle of moral consideration. We eventually come to speak of these individuals collectively as objects, even as a "resource" that is to be "managed."

But does this kind of euphemistic language, and the psychological disconnect behind it, represent our community's best aspirations for itself? How can we justify paying others to perform deeds under the cover of darkness that most of us would be unwilling to witness, much less carry out ourselves in the full light of day? Is this who we are as a community

What will we teach our children about how to resolve conflict? Will it be violence, or creative problem solving?
The Choice is In Our Hands

The deer have no voice, and no choice, in this matter. It is up to us to decide what happens.

Thankfully, we have the ability as a community to chose to set aside violent options, to work together to find an approach to decreasing the impact of deer-human conflict that is safe, ethical, and rational. In doing so, we will not only be following our own best traditions, we will also be blazing a trail that can be followed by the many communities nationwide who are struggling with similar issues.

This web site is published by - Ithacans for Safe, Ethical, and Rational Approaches to Reducing Deer-Human Conflict. We are a group of concerned citizens from Ithaca neighborhoods, including Cayuga Heights. If you would like to join our educational outreach effort and be informed of opportunities where your input can make a difference, contact us.

1. Santa Barbara News-Press, 3/25/05: Ex-park chief calls for moratorium on island 'hunt'
2. DRAC Meeting: 11/6/08, comment by committee member John Hermanson