After the Webinar: Solving Problems with Deer. Q&A with John Griffin

Webinar presenter John Griffin answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Solving Problems with Deer. Here are just a few of his responses.


Audience Question: I had a call that we had a Sika deer in my area. And, by the way, the community member actually sent a photo of the deer. Are these deer native to North America, and, if so, can they live among other deer? 

John Griffin: Well, it depends on where you are, so that we do have populations of Sika deer that have been introduced, and some are native in some areas. If you could reach out to me, I’m glad to give you some information on that. We have a PDF on where they are native, that might be helpful.


Audience Question: What are your thoughts on feeding deer? We have a lot of people who like to do that. I have read that because their diet changes seasonally, that feeding deer rich foods in the wintertime, could make them sick as their digestive systems have switched over to barks, root, etc. and normally, we recommend that it’s just not a good practice to feed them. So, what are your thoughts about helping the public understand, it’s just not a good idea to feed the deer? 

John Griffin:  Yeah, I know this is a really complex human dimensions issue. And I’m sure many of you deal with it on a regular basis. Not just for deer, but with all wild animals, including, you know birds. It’s really challenging. People want to interact with them, they think they’re helping them but they’re not, they’re decidedly not with deer. And it is important to crack that open, if you can, by appealing to them, if you really care about them, you will do that. Because it potentially introduces a whole host of problems habituating them to humans, bringing them closer, potentially increasing the risk of zoonotic transmission, not just to humans, but from a human to deer, and we know that that was happening with COVID-19, that humans where we’re getting too close and transmitting the disease to them, and they were acting as a reservoir for that disease. We don’t know exactly with what impact. But the fact that that did transmit was problematic? So, it is important to really push back on that and encourage them not to do that, if you really care about  them. Because you’re right, it’s not just the habituation, not just the zoonotic transmission, but it’s also potentially harmful to them, to their health by feeding them things that may not normally have access to. That’s a good question.


Audience Question: What is the best approach to help the public understand that fawns cannot be rehabbed if they are in a Chronic Wasting Disease county? I know the county I live in the fawns can’t, according to the Department of Wildlife Resources.

John Griffin: Yes. And that’s something, Chronic Wasting Disease is something that it’s being tracked across the US. Many state agencies absolutely prohibit any fawns, or any orphan care, or wildlife rehabilitation of adults. They may do that anyway, but especially in areas with CWD. And that is something, we are seeing CWD increase in some states across the US. So, again, I think it’s tied up with this idea that people shouldn’t be the first reason not to not to bring in a fawn they found because the mom’s out there looking for it. And the best chance of success for that fawn is to be with mom. And the chance of even raising fawns in a wildlife rehabilitation setting is really challenging and that the return rate isn’t very high, so the best chance of survival for that fawn is to go with mom, learn from mom, to be with her. And this intervening that way in this and in a region that does have CWD, it is absolute. That’s, they’re probably going to, they’re probably going to euthanize that fawn. And may not even seek a reunion strategy. So, it really is important to, I mean, maybe that’s something that you add to your seasonal information about kidnapping and people being aware that mom’s stash the fawns for this long, if you find one, don’t intervene unless you see these criteria injury, the fawn crying and roaming around, or a clearly dead lactating female doe.


Audience Question: Do you have any comment on baiting, feeding deer, and the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease? 

John Griffin: Well, it’s potential. I mean, it’s one of the reasons that feeding is not allowed in most states. It’s not something that state agencies want to see. They don’t want to see baiting. I mean, there are pockets where it’s allowed. But, in certain circumstances. But it’s not appropriate, and it could be a component. It could be an element of bringing in animals closer together and potentially spreading disease not just CWD.


Audience Question: Several people were asking about birth control through chemical means, and is that effective for deer? Is that something that can be implemented as a form of population control? And, lastly, is it cost-effective? 

John Griffin: Well, that’s a webinar for another day, I mean, there’s  lot there. But, I mean, immune contraception has been shown to be effective. We’ve done a lot of work in that area and looking at that as a tool. But, again, is it ready for practical implementation at a community level? No. It’s not. Not at this time. I mean, and really what we want to see before we get to number reduction is, can we talk about conflict reduction first? Can we talk of take all the steps that need to be taken, regardless of any kind of population reduction strategy might tick on at a later date? You got to go through these other steps before you decide that population reduction is necessary or warranted. Whether ethically or it’s going to achieve your goals, but it’s a tool that in terms of practical application has still has some ways to go. It can be implemented, it can be done, but again, just like any, any population reduction approach should be done. And that’s the kind of thing we’re trying to build resources around, before communities get to that point so they can, they can learn to live with the deer that live in their communities.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Solving Problems with Deer


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