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County Supervisors Vote Against Holding a Deer Hunt : Wildlife: In making its unanimous decision, the board ignores the advice of some biologists, who advocated that the event take place.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

County supervisors overrode the advice of wildlife biologists Wednesday and voted unanimously to recommend cancellation of a two-day deer hunt in the Cleveland National Forest scheduled for October.

“They say they’re doing something for deer, but they’re not,” state Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologist Esther Burkett said after the meeting. “If the county really cares, show us, because they haven’t shown us anything to this point.”

The supervisors, however, backed the recommendation of the county Fish and Game Commission, which expressed worries that not enough data is now available on the number of deer in the area.

The annual Tenaja Antlerless Deer Hunt runs for two days and allows 100 hunters to participate, and it takes place on public land.

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“I support the deer and the county,” Supervisor Don R. Roth said.

But Burkett and Doug Padley, an environmental consultant who runs the Orange County Deer Study, both said that canceling the event is an illusionary gesture toward wildlife protection and that the hunt would, in fact, have made little difference in the health of local deer. To really help the animals, the biologists said, the board should rethink its development and road construction projects.

“We’re basing this on the best biological information,” Burkett said. “I don’t think this issue should be an anti-hunting issue.”

After the meeting, Burkett said that because the state Fish and Game Department receives much of its revenue from the sale of hunting licenses and “tags,” dropping the hunt would take money away from the department charged with managing wildlife.

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The supervisors seemed dumbfounded to hear wildlife experts advocating a deer hunt, even a modest one.

“You intend to recommend that the hunt go on?” board Chairman Gaddi H. Vasquez asked Burkett as she stood at the lectern. “That’s an interesting perspective.”

The county Fish and Game Commission had recommended canceling the hunt this year because of fears that the drought and development were winnowing the deer herd. Few hard numbers on the deer population are available--although estimates suggest there are probably several thousand living in the county--and the local commission urged cancellation until it receives a clearer picture of the number of deer in the area.

Supervisors heartily endorsed that suggestion.

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“I think it’s imperative and important that the board take this action,” Vasquez said, before leading his colleagues in their unanimous vote to cancel the hunt.

That recommendation will be forwarded to the state Fish and Game Commission, which will make the final decision about whether a hunt should take place.


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