Jekyll’s Deer: To Kill or Not to Kill – Your Thoughts?

The possibility of lethal reduction of a significant percentage of Jekyll’s deer population is currently a hot topic on Jekyll Island. If you would like to make your thoughts known on this issue, please read the following outline and then take advantage of our comments option. With your help, IPJI can provide visitor and resident input to the JIA regarding the contentious deer population control issue. 

For the past year, a JIA-sponsored committee has been exploring the Jekyll deer management issue, particularly with respect to the need to control deer population. Headed by JIA Conservation Director Ben Carswell, the committee has not yet presented its recommendations regarding deer population management to the JIA board.

Some of the committee’s assumptions, data and conclusions have been questioned by people experienced in wildlife management and deer population control.  Among the points they’ve raised are:

  • The spotlight survey method used by the JIA to determine the approximate number of deer on Jekyll Island produced biased results. Surveying areas that have the largest concentration of deer and the projecting those exact same findings to large areas not surveyed but known to have far fewer deer is bound to result in an inflated count of deer numbers.
  • The JIA’s assessment of deer browsing habits and impacts on the ecology of the maritime forest are based on a limited study and did not produce results that support the claim that deer are threatening biodiversity in Jekyll’s forest.
  • The use of lethal means to control Jekyll’s deer population is unwarranted. By nature, deer reproduce at a lower rate when their numbers outdistance the available food supply and at a higher rate when food is plentiful. In the absence of extraordinary circumstances, there is no need to interfere with this cyclical, natural regulation of deer reproduction, which typically keeps deer numbers in balance with the local environment.
  • Artificial reduction of the deer population is counterproductive. When deer numbers are reduced by killing programs, the remaining female deer, by nature, respond to greater food abundance by reproducing at a higher rate, often giving birth to twins. Killing a sizable percentage of the deer population would thus result in a relatively quick rebound in deer numbers.  Deer killing would then have to be repeated, deer numbers would then recover once again, and the cycle would go on and on without achieving the results intended.
  • Killing Jekyll’s deer, many of which are nearly domesticated, would negatively affect Jekyll Island’s public image. Jekyll visitors who enjoy encounters with deer and view them as one of the island’s attractions would be outraged by the mass killing of deer. National organizations that advocate for the humane treatment of animals are likely to protest the needless killing of deer, creating a public relations nightmare for the JIA.   The strategy of killing deer to control population would thus come with significant costs and would not achieve the intended management goals.

In light of all of the above, an organization entitled Citizens for the Humane Treatment of  Animals on Jekyll Island has been formed to help ensure that Jekyll’s deer get a fair shake. The group, which is now recruiting members, opposes the use of lethal means to control Jekyll’s deer population; believes nature should be allowed to regulate deer numbers, as has been the case for countless years; and—if further study shows that Jekyll does in fact have an unhealthy surplus of deer—supports the use of a newly developed, low-cost and remotely injected contraceptive that has proven effective in reducing deer numbers.

For information on Citizens for the Humane Treatment of Animals on Jekyll Island, go to

For an essay on why killing programs do not solve deer problems, click here.

So far, the available information indicates that the committee believes the following to be true:

  • There are over 750 deer on Jekyll Island, which is more than double the number the island can handle.
  • Deer browsing (feeding) is damaging the maritime forest and threatening biodiversity.
  • Jekyll’s deer are malnourished and diseased.
  • Deer are increasingly becoming a public nuisance.
  • The most viable options for reducing the island’s deer numbers are federal sharpshooters, locally-trained sharpshooters, or a controlled hunt.
Deer on the south end of Jekyll
Photo provided by James Holland
Fawns on Pine Lakes Golf Course