Texas communities slaughter deer, donate venison

February 2, 2010 8:19:38 AM PST
Nearly two dozen Texas communities have gotten permits to trap and slaughter deer in an effort to control animal populations and donate venison to the needy. The Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday that Walden on Lake Conroe is the second area subdivision to join the program, as the deer population swelled and security and neighborhood concerns were raised.

At least 22 communities statewide have obtained similar permits this year to reduce deer populations, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

A 2008 survey estimated there were 492 deer living on 3,500 acres in Walden. The ratio is more than four times as many deer that would be found in the same area in the wild, according to state wildlife officials.

"The Walden community is divided. Many here just don't like to think about it," said Linda Ross of Walden, a member of the U.S. Humane Society. "One man stood up at our community meeting and said he has heard the deer screaming after they are trapped. We're becoming the killing fields."

Tori Perry, with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said her group recommends nonlethal measures, such as barring the feeding of deer, fencing for landscapes and repellents.

"Deer are wild animals with strong flight instincts," Perry said. "So this is absolutely terrifying for them to be trapped under a net and then tossed into a truck while fully conscious to endure noises and jostling while transported to a slaughterhouse."

However, Gary Calkins, Texas Parks and Wildlife's leader for the area including Walden, said PETA's suggestions will only work when there's a slight increase in the deer population.

"When there is a real population crush, as Walden's experienced, PETA's methods would be reducing the number by starvation," Calkins said.

The president of Walden's improvement association, Scott Sustman, said residents enjoy the natural surroundings and love the deer, but there are too many of the animals.

"There are constant car accidents. Our road crews are regularly picking up dead deer. And we have reports of deer being aggressive," Sustman said.

Trapping is permitted from October through February.