Caneel Bay Resort contracted the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to euthanize an unknown number of diseased deer from the herd that provides photo opportunities for many visitors and residents, an APHIS official said Thursday.
“They had a heavy tick load,” APHIS supervisor Ken Gruver said. He said that the ticks can spread to humans.
Efforts to find out information directly from Caneel were unsuccessful. Manager Nikolay Hotze referred questions to an unspecified federal agency and the resort’s public relations firm, Hawkins International Public Relations.
“Caneel Bay had nothing to do with any of it,” he said, adding that he could not comment further.
Both Hawkins representative Laura Lopez and Gruver said a press release about the matter would be issued but by 8 p.m. Thursday, none materialized.
St. John resident Ann Marie Estes said she is outraged that the situation happened without any humanitarian consideration. She said that a veterinarian should be on hand to ensure that the deer were indeed dead when they were buried. Another person who reported the matter to the Source indicated the dead deer were buried at Caneel.
Estes said that she understands that sometimes it is necessary to eliminate deer, and in the case of St. John’s deer, there are no natural predators.
Estes also was upset about reports that firearms were used without public notice. “Someone could have been on a night hike in the park,” Estes said.
Efforts to find out how many deer were killed and the exact method used as well as other details were not successful since Gruver and Lopez said they couldn’t provide much information until the press release was issued.
According to Roy A. Pemberton Jr., the director of the Fish and Wildlife Division of the Planning and Natural Resources, he met several times with Caneel officials but determined no local permits were required for the operation because Caneel sits on federally owned land.
Caneel is located on V.I. National Park land, but park Superintendent Brion FitzGerald said the park did not know anything about this week’s kill. He said according to its agreement with the park, Caneel doesn’t have to notify the park what it does on its property.
He said Caneel contacted the park late last winter or spring in hopes of finding a way to get rid of the ticks that plagued many of the deer. He said they were all over their bodies and covered their faces. “And they were emaciated and not eating right,” he said.
He said the park made some suggestions about a mechanical way to get rid of them and also suggested Caneel contact APHIS for a solution.
“That’s the last we heard from them,” FitzGerald said.
Several officials said it wouldn’t be prudent to distribute the meat from the dead deer for human consumption because the deer were diseased.
Caneel Bay is currently closed as it is every fall. It will reopen Nov. 1.