Deer Birth Control

  • Gardiner Joe Williamson says sterilization does nothing to solve the immediate problem of too many deer. (Photo courtesy of Adam Allington)

Whitetail deer have adapted pretty well to the suburbs. But… it means a lot of car-deer accidents. It also means deer munching on tulips and shrubs. Some people consider them pests and want to get rid of the deer. But instead of simply killing them, one city has decided to capture and sterilize a number of does.
Adam Allington reports, the results might point toward the future of urban wildlife management.

Transcript

Whitetail deer have adapted pretty well to the suburbs.

But… it means a lot of car-deer accidents. It also means deer munching on tulips and shrubs. Some people consider them pests and want to get rid of the deer.

But instead of simply killing them, one city has decided to capture and sterilize a number of does.

Adam Allington reports, the results might point toward the future of urban wildlife management.

It’s a crisp night in Town and Country, Missouri…home to some 10,000 souls…and about 800 deer.

“There goes a deer over there, it’s just to the left of the tree, you can barely see it.”

Joel Porath is a wildlife regional supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation. Just like humans, whitetails he says, are right at home in the quiet cul du sacs of suburbia.

“They have all the food resources, they don’t have hunting and they don’t really have predators, so mainly vehicles are what kill them in communities like this.”

Lynn Wright sits on Town and Country’s board of aldermen. Despite the accidents she says most folks like seeing the deer around…kind of reminding them that they don’t live in the city.

“But when you start going from 2 or 3 and seeing 10 or 12 in the backyard you do start getting concerned about that.”

The car accidents were a problem, but Wright says people also complained about damaged trees and landscaping. Still, the town resisted the easiest solution—to just hire sharpshooters to come in and kill all the deer.

Instead, they explored alternative methods…this is sound from a department of conservation video…it shows four deer eating corn in a back yard…just then, a large dropnet is released…sending them into a flailing frenzy until technicians rush in with tranquilizer shots.

The deer are then brought to Steve Timm. Timm is a veterinarian with White Buffalo Incorporated. Its a company that specializes in sterilizing deer.

“We’ve got two does coming in. We’re going to sterilize them by removing ovaries.”

Timm operates out of a small eight by sixteen foot trailer… When the does arrive they’re hoisted on to an operating table and prepped for surgery.

“I’ve located the left ovary here, and so I’ll clamp it, bring it to the surface, use cautery to prevent any bleeding.”

The whole process takes about 20 minutes. The deer are then stapled up, fitted with reflective collars and released.

Timm says the theory is simple—fewer fauns mean less deer eating shrubs and running into cars.

“The early information suggests, that if there are some deer in the environment, especially our sterile does, the other deer have less tendency to move in.”

But not everyone backs the sterilization approach.

Joe Williamson is a retiree who loves to garden. Walking around his yard he points out flowering magnolias, yews, Japanese maples…basically, a kind of all-night deer buffet.

“This is a good example of antler rubs, this is called Staghorn Sumac. The bucks rub their antlers on here and they break them off, you see all these…its just wrecked.”

Williamson says sterilization does nothing to solve the immediate problem of too many deer. It’s also much more expensive. Town and Country paid White Buffalo 150-thousand dollars to sterilize 112 does, and kill another 100.

But, Joel Porath of the Department of Conservation says in the end, the best solution may involve sterilizing some deer…and killing others.

“Could you imagine if we stopped allowing deer hunting in the state? You know we kill around 300,000 dear each year and it doesn’t take very long for the population to jump back up. So, they do need to continue to do something in Town and Country down the road.”

By the end of spring Porath says the department should have enough information to see if sterilization makes sense for other suburban areas.

For The Environment Report, I’m Adam Allington.

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Chlorine Carted Out of Canada

  • A Canadian chemical manufacturer shipped rail cars of toxic chlorine away from Vancouver and is storing them in rural Washington State. (Photo source: Wikimedia Commons)

Environmental groups suspect tight
security at the Vancouver Olympics
has shifted an environmental risk
from Canada to the US. Shawn Allee reports:

Transcript

Environmental groups suspect tight
security at the Vancouver Olympics
has shifted an environmental risk
from Canada to the US. Shawn Allee reports:

A Canadian chemical manufacturer shipped rail cars of toxic chlorine away from Vancouver and is storing them in rural Washington State.

The company says it’s part of a long-planned renovation of the chemical plant. Environmental groups suspect the rail shipments were timed to move tanks away from the Olympics.

Fred Millar is watching this development for Friends of the Earth. Millar says terrorists have shown interest in rail cars filled with chlorine gas.

“And that’s what people are mostly worried about because just one chlorine tank car could put out a cloud over any city at a lethal level that’s 15 miles long by 4 miles wide.”

US rail companies make 100,000 shipments of chlorine and similar toxic chemicals per year. Their safety record has largely been good, but accidents have released deadly chlorine gas.

One derailment in South Carolina killed nine people.

For The Environment Report, I’m Shawn Allee.

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New ‘Deer Crossing’ Technology

  • The Colorado Department of Transportation is trying out a new system to detect deer about to cross the highway (Photo courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Every year there are about 1.5 million
deer-car accidents. Now highway officials are
testing a new system to cut down on those
accidents. Rebecca Williams has more:

Transcript

Every year there are about 1.5 million
deer-car accidents. Now highway officials are
testing a new system to cut down on those
accidents. Rebecca Williams has more:

There are some animal detection systems that use lasers or infrared motion
sensors. But those systems can be tripped by tumbleweeds or small animals.

In Colorado, highway officials are testing a new device.

Nancy Shanks is with the Colorado Department of Transportation. She says
they’ve buried cables along each side of the highway. The cables emit an
electromagnetic field. When an animal crosses a cable a warning sign with a
picture of a jumping deer lights up.

“It will detect a change in the field to the tune of a large animal. The system
will not pick up a smaller animal – a skunk or a rabbit, mouse.”

This cable system isn’t cheap. The pilot project costs 1.2 million dollars.

But Shanks says if this system works out, the price should come down a bit
over time.

For The Environment Report, I’m Rebecca Williams.

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Ghostbikes: Two-Wheeled Memorials

  • With more cyclists on the road, there is concern about keeping accident rates from going up as well (Photo by Corbin Sullivan)

There’s a grass roots effort to
honor people killed while riding bicycles.
It’s called “ghostbikes”. Chuck Quirmbach
reports:

Transcript

There’s a grass roots effort to
honor people killed while riding bicycles.
It’s called “ghostbikes”. Chuck Quirmbach
reports:

Only a tiny number of bicyclists are hit and killed. But some riders say the death toll should be
zero.

So, in about sixty communities across the US, bicycle groups are painting bikes all white. Then
they chain them to a post near the site of the bicycle fatality.

Rider Jessica Weinberg compares the skeleton-looking ghostbikes to white crosses placed where
people die in motorized vehicles.

“I think anyone who drives on the highway when they see a cross on the side of the road, that
does kind of make you think for a minute, ‘should I drive a little more carefully here, there was a
tragedy here, what was the situation?’ We want the same thing with the ghostbikes.”

Weinberg says with high gas prices putting more bikers on the road, ghostbikes may help keep
accident rates from going up.

For The Environment Report, I’m Chuck Quirmbach.

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Chemical Companies Could Be Safer

Environmental groups want Congress to push for use of less toxic chemicals at many industrial
sites. Chuck Quirmbach reports:

Transcript

Environmental groups want Congress to push for use of less toxic chemicals at many industrial
sites. Chuck Quirmbach reports:


A House committee last year passed a plan to require industries to replace dangerous chemicals
with less toxic alternatives whenever feasible. The US Public Interest Research Group is among
the environmental organizations urging this year’s Congress to revive the measure.


Spokesman Bruce Speight argues the companies, and consumers, would not face sticker shock
when adopting greener chemicals and processes:


“No, in fact, over the long term they could actually save the facilities money and, you know, of course in the event of something happening, the cost to these facilities is great.”


When Speight says something happening he means an accident or terrorist attack at a site that
uses dangerous chemicals. Thousands of people could be hurt in such an incident. But the
chemical industry says many firms are already switching to less toxic substances, and don’t need
the federal government to push them.


For the Environment Report, I’m Chuck Quirmbach.

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Looking Back on the “Slick of ’76”

  • Officials placed containment booms around the barge. Most of them failed to prevent the oil from floating downriver, contaminating dozens of miles of pristine shoreline. (Courtesy of the NY State Dept. of Conservation)

30 years ago, an oil barge ran aground in the St. Lawrence River. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of thick crude oil coated the shoreline of northern New York state. The accident remains one of the largest inland oil spills in the United States. It’s a reminder that freighters haul millions of gallons of toxic liquids across the Great Lakes. And many people worry about another spill. The GLRC’s David Sommerstein talked to witnesses of the 1976 spill:

Transcript

30 years ago, an oil barge ran aground in the St. Lawrence River. Hundreds
of thousands of gallons of thick crude oil coated the shoreline of northern New
York State. The accident remains one of the largest inland oil spills in the
United States. It’s a reminder that freighters haul millions of gallons of toxic
liquids across the Great Lakes. And many people worry about another spill.
The GLRC’s David Sommerstein talked to witnesses of the 1976 spill:


It was really foggy that morning. Bob Smith awoke to two sounds:


“You could hear the anchor chains going down, and next thing we know
there was a young Coast Guard guy knocking on the front door.”


The Coast Guard guy had driven up, asking around for a missing barge.
Smith remembered the anchor chains echoing across the water that woke
him up. He went outside to look.


(Sound of walking outside)


Thirty years later, Smith lives amidst cozy cottages on manicured lawns in
the heart of the touristy Thousand Islands.


“Just right about straight out there. See where that boat’s coming up there
now?”


That’s where a barge carrying oil from Venezuela had dropped anchor after
running aground. That morning Smith watched crude as thick as mud drift
out of sight downriver:


“If you’re born and raised here on the river, you don’t like to see anything go
in the river that doesn’t belong there.”


The Coast Guard placed booms in the water, but the oil quickly spilled over.
It carried 50 miles downstream. It oozed as far as 15 feet into the river’s
marshes. Tom Brown was the point man for New York’s Department of
Environmental Conservation. He says the spill couldn’t have come at a
worse time for wildlife:


“All the young fish, waterfowl, shorebirds, furbearers, were coming off the
nests and were being born.”


Thousands of birds and fish suffocated in black goo. As images of
devastation flashed on national TV, the spill killed the tourism season, too.
It was a summer with no swimming, no fishing, no dipping your feet in the
water at sunset. Really, it was a summer with no river.


(Sound of river at Chalk’s dock)


30 years later, everyone still remembers the acrid smell:


“When I woke up in the middle of the night and I could smell oil, I was
afraid I had an oil leak in my house.”


Dwayne Chalk’s family has owned a marina on the St. Lawrence for
generations. Chalk points to a black stripe of oil on his docks, still there
three decades later, and he’s still bitter:


“The Seaway has done this area, well, I shouldn’t say that, it hasn’t done any
good. To me it hasn’t.”


The St. Lawrence Seaway opened the ports of the Great Lakes to Atlantic
Ocean freighters carrying cargoes of steel, ore, and liquid chemicals. It
generates billions of dollars a year in commerce, but it’s also brought
pollution and invasive species.


Anthropologist John Omohundro studied the social effects of the 1976 oil
spill. He says it helped awaken environmentalism in the Great Lakes:


“The spill actually raised people’s consciousness that the river could be a
problem in a number of areas, not just oil.”


Groups like Save the River and Great Lakes United began lobbying for
cleaner water and safer navigation in the years after the spill:


“If a vessel carrying oil or oil products were in that same type of ship today,
it would not be allowed in.”


Albert Jacquez is the outgoing administrator for the US side of the St. Lawrence
Seaway. The 1976 barge had one hull and gushed oil when it hit the rocks.
Today’s barges are mostly double-hulled and use computerized navigation.
Jacquez says a lot has changed to prevent spills:


“The ships themselves are different, the regulations that they have to follow are
different, and the inspections are different. Now does that guarantee? Well,
there are no guarantees, period.”


So if there is a spill, the government requires response plans for every part of
the Great Lakes. Ralph Kring leads training simulations of those plans for
the Coast Guard in Buffalo. Still, he says the real thing is different:


“You really can’t control the weather and the currents and all that. It’s definitely going to be a
challenge, especially when you’re dealing with a real live incident where
everyone’s trying to move as fast as they can and also as efficient as they
can.”


Critics question the ability to get responders to remote areas in time. They
also worry about spills in icy conditions and chemical spills that oil booms
wouldn’t contain.


(Sound of river water)


Back on the St. Lawrence River, Dwayne Chalk says the oil spill of 1976
has taught him it’s not if, it’s when, the next big spill occurs:


“You think about it all the time. Everytime a ship comes up through here,
you think what’s going to happen if that ship hits something.”


Chalk and everyone else who relies on the Great Lakes hope they’ll never
have to find out.


For the GLRC, I’m David Sommerstein.

Related Links

Homeland Security to Remove Hazmat Placards?

Officials at the Department of Homeland Security are considering removing hazardous material placards from freight trains. They say doing so will help protect people from terrorists. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush has more:

Transcript

Officials at the Department of Homeland Security are considering removing
hazardous material placards from freight trains. They say doing so would help
protect people from terrorists. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush has more:


Because of the September 11th terrorist attacks, officials see the potential for a
lot of things to be used as weapons. One of their latest fears is that shipments of
hazardous materials could be used by terrorists. In order to protect people from this
threat, the Department of Homeland Security says it might require the removal of the
diamond shaped placards from rail cars. Emergency workers use the placards to quickly
identify a hazard after an accident.


Richard Powell is the Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Fire Chiefs.
He says while the Department of Homeland Security is well-intentioned, removal of the
placards would put more people at risk:


“We need to protect our citizens. We need to keep that system in place. If we don’t know something is there, our people could not evacuate perhaps, as quick as we normally would.”


Homeland Security officials say they’ll consider other options that would help disguise the rail cars, but would still allow emergency workers to know what’s inside.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mark Brush.

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Gardeners Have Hand in Invasive Species Control

  • Centaurea diffusa a.k.a. Spotted knapweed. Introduced in the late 1800's, knapweed can reduce diversity in the region's prairies. (Photo courtesy of the USDA)

Gardeners have been ordering new plants and digging in the dirt this spring, but if they’re not careful, they could be introducing plants that can cause havoc with forests, lakes, and other natural areas. Gardeners can’t count on their suppliers to warn them about plants that can damage the local ecosystems. In another report in the series, “Your Choice; Your Planet,” the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

Gardeners have been ordering new plants and digging in the dirt this spring, but, if
they’re not careful, they could be introducing plants that can cause havoc with forests,
lakes, and other natural areas. Gardeners can’t count on their suppliers to warn them
about plants that can damage the local ecosystems. In another report in the series “Your
Choice; Your Planet,” the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:


Gardening, especially flower gardening, seems to get more popular all the time. Maybe
it’s because the baby-boomers have all reached that age where they’re beginning to
appreciate stopping for a moment to smell the roses.


That’s fine. In fact if gardeners plant the right kinds of plants… it can be great for
wildlife. There are all kinds of guides for backyard natural areas.


But… in some cases… gardeners can unleash plant pests on the environment.


Katherine Kennedy is with the Center for Plant Conservation. She says almost all of the
problem plants that damage the native ecosystems were planted with good intentions…


“I don’t believe that any invasive species has ever been introduced into the United States
on purpose by someone who willingly said, ‘Oh yeah, this is going to be a problem, but I
don’t care.’ They’ve almost all been inadvertent problems that were introduced by
someone who thought they were doing something good or who thought they were
bringing in something beautiful.”


English ivy, a decorative ground cover, is now killing forests in the Pacific Northwest…
kudzu is doing the same in the southeast… and in the Great Lakes region and the
Midwest… pretty flowering plants such as purple loosestrife and water plants such as
Eurasian watermilfoil are causing damage to wetlands, crowding out native plants and
disturbing the habitat that many wildlife species need to survive.


Bob Wilson works in the Michigan Senate Majority policy office. Like many other
states, Michigan is looking at legislation to ban certain problem plants. Wilson agrees
that these plant pests are generally not intentional… but they do show that people seem to
unaware of the problems that they’re causing…


“The two most common vectors for bringing in these kinds of plants are typically
landscapers, who bring it in as a way of decorating yards and lawns, and then aquarium
dumpers, people who inadvertently dump their aquarium, thinking that there’s no
consequence to that. Before you know it, something that was contained is now spread.”


But stopping the import of pest plants is a lot harder than just passing laws that ban them.
With mail order and Internet orders from large nurseries so common, the plants can get
shipped to a local nursery, landscaper or local gardener without the government ever
knowing about it.


Recently, botanists, garden clubs, and plant nursery industry groups put together some
codes of conducts. Called the St. Louis Protocol or the St. Louis Declaration… the
document set out voluntary guidelines for the industry and gardeners to follow to avoid
sending plants to areas where they can cause damage.


Sarah Reichard is a botanist with the University of Washington. She helped put the St.
Louis Protocol together. She says if a nursery signs on to the protocol, it will help stop
invasive plant species from being shipped to the wrong places….


“And it’s up to each of the nursery owners, particularly those who sell mail order or
Internet, to go and find out which species are banned in each state.” LG: And is that
happening?
“Uh, I think most nursery people are pretty responsible and are trying to
do the best that they can. I’m sure that they’re very frustrated and understandably so
because the tools aren’t really out there for them and it is very difficult to find the
information. So, it’s a frustrating situation for them.”


But in preparing this report, we found that some of the biggest mail-order nurseries had
never heard of the St. Louis protocol. And many of the smaller nurseries don’t have the
staff or resources to check out the potential damage of newly imported plants… or even
to check out each state to make sure that banned plants aren’t being sent inadvertently.


Sarah Reichard says that means gardeners… you… need to do some homework before
ordering that pretty flowering vine. Is it banned in your state? Is it a nuisance that could
cause damage? Reichard says if enough gardeners care, they can make a difference…


“You know, gardeners have tremendous power. We, you know, the people that are
buying the plants at the nurseries – that’s what it’s all about. I mean, the nurseries are
there to provide a service to provide plants to those people and if those people have
certain tastes and demands such as not wanting to buy and plant invasive species, the
nurseries are going to respond to it. So, we’re all part of one team.”


Reichard and others concerned about the problem say although agencies are working on
it… the federal government has not yet done enough to effectively stop invasives from
being imported and shipped to the wrong areas. They say it’s up to the nurseries, the
botanists, and the gardeners to stop them. If not, we’ll all pay in tax money as
government agencies react to invasives with expensive eradication programs to try to get
rid of the plants invading parks, preserves, and other natural areas.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

Related Links

GARDENERS HAVE HAND IN INVASIVE SPECIES CONTROL (Short Version)

  • Centaurea diffusa a.k.a. Spotted knapweed. Introduced in the late 1800's, knapweed can reduce diversity in the region's prairies. (Photo courtesy of the USDA)

Gardeners are being asked to be careful about what they plant. Invasive species that cause damage to natural areas often start as a pretty plant in someone’s yard. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

http://environmentreport.org/wp-content/uploads/2004/05/graham2_053104.mp3

Transcript

Gardeners are being asked to be careful about what they plant. Invasive species that
cause damage to natural areas often start as a pretty plant in someone’s yard. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:


Botanists, plant nurseries and gardeners are all being asked to do a little more homework
before importing, selling, or planting new kinds of plants. Katherine Kennedy is with the
Center for Plant Conservation. She says some of the plants you mail order from the
nursery can end up being invasive kinds of plants that damage the local ecosystem…


“We are actually at a point where these invasions crowd out the native community, not
just a species or two, but the entire community. And the wildlife value falls and the
native plants are displaced. And, so, the destructive potential for a species that becomes
truly invasive is more immense than I think many people realize.”


Kennedy says you can’t count on the nursery to warn you when you order plants. She
says gardeners have to make sure the plants they’re ordering won’t hurt the surrounding
landscape.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

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