November 27th, 2009 by Bill Dyer
It can be difficult at times for animal activists to believe in happy endings. But our recent adventure on Catalina Island—23 miles off the coast of Los Angeles—may be that rare exception.
Ten years ago, in 1999, we learned that the Catalina Island Conservancy—which controls most of the island—had an overpopulation of non-native goats who were harming the fragile ecosystem on the island. In order to avoid a lethal solution we asked the conservancy if we could relocate the goats to the mainland. It was agreed, and IDA rescued and provided them with lifetime sanctuary in Northern California.
In 2003, a similar situation arose concerning the overpopulation of American bison on the island. Again, working with the conservancy, IDA relocated 103 bison to Native-American habitat in South Dakota. More were relocated twice in recent years.
During these episodes we discussed the possibility of contraception with the conservancy to avoid the difficulty and expense of constantly relocating the island’s bison and prevent the stress it caused the animals. Previously, in 1994, IDA had recommended contraception of the Tule elk in Point Reyes, near San Francisco, in association with the U.S. National Park Service, to prevent the bow-hunting killing of the elk. That experience was a success, and so we suggested it to the conservancy who looked in to the matter.
On Friday, November 20, 2009, we celebrated the fruits of our labors as we witnessed the first inoculation of the PZP birth control vaccine on some of the female bison. This contraception (which is reversible) will stabilize their population and end their constant relocation. This historic, unprecedented exercise has the potential to tackle effectively both the issues of animal overpopulation and that of non-native species and, thus, could save the lives of thousands of animals throughout the world. The conservancy should be commended for embracing this unique, compassionate and humane solution that IDA and local resident, Debbie Avellana, have been advocating for years to help deal with the overpopulation of bison on Catalina Island.
Remarkable also was the media’s interest in this story, the most I have ever witnessed, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal (front page), the Los Angeles Times (front page), Christian Science Monitor, Press-Telegram, the Los Angeles Daily News, AP, CNN, television channels 5 and 7, KNX Radio, etc. Both ABC and NBC national news will be covering the story next week.
So, yes, sometimes we can believe in happy endings.