The Myth of Wildlife Overpopulation

At a workshop at last month’s Animal Rights 2014 Conference, In Defense of Animals (IDA) described their efforts to reduce the deer population. Joining in this effort is the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

Statistics on wildlife regarded as “game species” generally come from data state game departments collect from hunters. They have a vested interest in pushing up the numbers to increase hunting opportunities. But even if we take their dubious figures as fact, HSUS cites the estimate of 30 million deer as “nearly the number when Europeans first arrived in North America.” An organization that has high regard for wildlife should welcome a wild species return to the numbers existing in preindustrial times. IDA and HSUS have focused instead on spaying and neutering wildlife populations. HSUS describes itself as “a leader in the emerging field of immunocontraception,” which it supports as a way “to control deer and wild horse populations across the United States and elephant populations in South Africa.”

The IDA-HSUS wildlife control plan is based on the work of Allen Rutberg, who has served as a senior scientist with HSUS. Along with IDA and HSUS, Rutberg supports contraception as an alternative to hunting, but he he also criticizes the whole idea that humans need to reduce wildlife populations. In his article Birth Control is Not for Everyone (a response), he wrote: “even using the crude first generation of immunocontraceptive vaccines, we have managed modest reductions in populations of suburban deer and barrier island horses. So you don’t necessarily need to kill animals to reduce wildlife populations (and their impacts). On a deeper level, though, focusing our frustration and enmity on ‘nuisance wildlife’ evades our own responsibility for creating these messes to begin with.”

Destruction of habitat is a threat to all wild animals, not just officially endangered species. Exotic domesticated species, including humans, cats, dogs, and cattle, have been overpopulating North America for centuries. To save the planet for wild species, we need to stop breeding domesticates.