Originally created 05/18/98

Board to pick plan to cut deer population



HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- The fate of Sea Pines' deer population could be decided this week.

Officials at the island resort are expected to vote on a management plan that calls for killing half the herd in some areas while using experimental contraceptives in others.

The Sea Pines Community Services Associates board meets Thursday to vote on the two-year, $99,320 plan, which one official said could prompt lawsuits from animal-rights activists.

The deer-management program would be a first for South Carolina and one of just a handful in the country.

The proposal was drafted by University of Georgia wildlife management professor Robert Warren. He has called for killing half the deer in the Gull Point and Baynard Cove areas on the southern tip of the island using sharpshooters and trapping.

It's estimated that 500 to 600 deer live in Sea Pines.

Mr. Warren's plan says an abortion-inducing hormone on those deer in the winters of 1999 and 2000 to control growth.

On Sea Pines northern part, a contraceptive drug called PZP is suggested for use on deer the next two summers. The drug would be administered through dart guns.

But a state official is wary about experimental techniques.

"We don't know exactly what they do to the animal, physiologically and behaviorally," said Charles Ruth, Natural Resources Department deer program manager.

The plan came about when residents complained of the animals eating flowers and shrubbery. Also, resort officials say the deer have caused about 150 vehicle accidents from 1993-97.

However, not everyone supports killing the deer.

"They are bound and determined to kill these deer," said Gordon Stamler, who helped found the Sea Pines Association for the Protection of Wildlife. "Hundreds of people here and across the country are opposed to this. They just want to get rid of the deer now."

John Fraser, president of the Community Services Associates, says he's gotten letters from around the country against the plan and is worried about potential lawsuits.

"There may be litigation," Mr. Fraser said. "But we feel we have a problem, and we need to manage it."

Recreational hunting is not an option because of Hilton Head Island's resort-suburban nature. The town also prohibits hunting large mammals.

Mr. Fraser said the last Sea Pines deer hunt was 1963.