Catalina Island Restoration Project

Frequently Asked Questions


The Catalina Island Restoration Project is a complex initiative with lots of moving parts. We’ve put together some commonly asked questions and their answers to give you more information. If you do not see your question here please Contact Us.

Along with the FAQs below, the following presentation also answers a lot of common questions.

Restoration Presentation


General Questions

Q: What does a plan for conservation look like?

A: A comprehensive conservation plan for the Catalina Island Conservancy will entail implementing strategies for habitat restoration, plant restoration, and species management, aiming to restore the Island’s ecosystems, protect endangered species, and maintain a sustainable environment for future generations.

Q: Who is involved in the planning process and who makes the decisions?

A: The Conservancy is leading the effort, working closely with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  We see it as a partnership between everyone that has a stake in the Island’s future. We are actively listening to all viewpoints to develop a scientifically sound, ecologically responsible plan.

Q: Why is the Restoration Project so important?

A: The restoration plan for Catalina Island is crucial as it aims to preserve and enhance the Island’s natural ecosystems, protect endangered species, and promote sustainable practices, ensuring the long-term ecological health and biodiversity of the Island. As the world experiences the ever-increasing effects of climate change, this revitalization plan is especially important as it helps to build resilience against changes and extremes in the climate.

Plant Questions

Q: What is a seed farm and why is it important?

A: A seed farm is a facility that grows, preserves and stores seeds of various plant species. Its primary purpose is to conserve genetic diversity and ensure the long-term survival of plants, especially those that are rare or endangered.

Catalina Island has plant species that are found nowhere else in the world. These species are called endemics, and they are particularly vulnerable to extinction because they have a limited distribution. By producing, collecting and storing seeds from these unique plants, our seed farm will help protect their genetic diversity and ensure their survival in case of natural disasters or human-induced threats.

Q: How many plants on Catalina Island are facing extinction?

native plant species to Catalina Island

A: There are more than 60 plant and animal species on Catalina that are endemic, meaning that they exist only on Catalina. More than 42 plant species are currently facing extinction on the Island if nothing is done to protect them.

Q: Why are these plants facing extinction?

A: Several endemic plant species on Catalina Island are facing extinction due to factors such as browsing by invasive mule deer, habitat loss, invasive plant species and climate change which have disrupted their natural ecosystems and survival conditions.

Q: Why does it matter if they go extinct?

A: Preventing the extinction of endemic species on Catalina Island matters because these species play unique roles in the Island’s ecosystem and contribute to its biodiversity, which can have cascading effects on other flora and fauna, leading to ecological imbalances and reduced resilience to environmental changes.

Q: How long will it take for these plants to recover?

A: The time it will take for the endangered plants on Catalina Island to recover significantly with conservation measures taken today is highly dependent on the specific species and the success of the conservation efforts. The full restoration will be gradual but early results should be noticeable within a few years.

Q: What if the Restoration Project doesn’t take place?

A: If the Catalina Island Restoration Project doesn’t take place, the future of the Island is in jeopardy.  The native species that protect our landscape could be threatened or lost leading to disruptions in the ecosystem, potential extinctions, and an increased threat of wildfire on the Island.  There will be loss of water and soil resources, vital to the survival of all species.

Q: Is it true that Catalina Island has the rarest tree found in America?

A: Yes, Catalina Island is home to Catalina Island mountain-mahogany which is found only on the Island. There are only seven trees left on the Island and it is Federal and state endangered species, CNPS 1B.1.

Q: Are there any invasive plant species that the Restoration Plan is addressing?

A: There are over 200 species of non-native plants that live on the Island of which 35 species are considered a threat to ecosystems. Not all introduced plants are invasive and some are less likely to outcompete native species. Those considered invasive are ranked according to the magnitude of the problems they present, including how widespread they are, how fast they can spread and how damaging to the local native species they are. Invasive plant species are removed through manual and chemical methods, monitored on an ongoing basis and managed to build a resilient ecosystem.

Deer Questions

Q: What problem are the mule deer causing on Catalina Island?

A: The deer have over browsed the land – destroying natural habitats along with the vegetation that’s needed to help reduce wildfire risk and soil erosion. While the deer are present, ecosystems that should be lush and forested are converted to stripped down landscapes that are vulnerable to the overgrowth of fire prone invasive grasses.

Q: The deer appear happy and healthy. Why must they be removed from the Island?

A: Catalina’s population of roughly 1800 mule deer is suffering while also devastating our fragile ecosystem in an attempt to survive.

Q: What is the plan for managing the deer?

A: With the help of such experts as California Department of Fish & Wildlife, and other partners we have determined that our only option is to remove the deer from Catalina Island.  The deer will be humanely euthanized using trained marksmen. Where feasible, the carcasses will be removed. In more remote areas where it poses a safety risk, carcasses will provide food and nutrition for the Island’s wildlife.

Q: What has the Conservancy done in the past to attempt to manage the deer population?

A: The Conservancy has welcomed hunters as conservation partners in managing the Island’s introduced mule deer populations for 25 years; however, this did not result in enough deer being removed from the Island to make a meaningful change in the population, despite having the longest hunting season in California and more tags than we can sell.  Now, we must look at other options and make the hard decisions that will ultimately help to ensure the Island’s future.

Q: Why can’t the deer stay on Island?

A: The deer can’t stay on the Island because they are an invasive species, over-browsing native plants, and disrupting the ecosystem.  They are starving, suffering and have no quality of life.  If allowed to continue as they are, the future of Catalina Island will be in jeopardy.

Q: Are we able to feed the deer if they are hungry?

A: Because the deer are managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, there are strict laws in place (Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 251.3) that prevent the Conservancy and public from being able to provide additional food or water to the deer because it could cause disease transmission. Feeding the deer is not only illegal, often human food makes the deer sick or even kills them.

Q: Does California Department of Fish and Wildlife support deer removal?

A: California Department of Fish and Wildlife is heavily involved in the decision-making process regarding the deer management on the Island.

Q: Are you using helicopters to remove the deer?

A: We are looking at all options, but helicopters will be used for the majority of deer management due to the Island’s rugged terrain and the need for quick and efficient population control.  Helicopters have been proven globally to be the safest and most efficient way to complete a project like this one.

Q: Will there be deer killed from helicopters in and around Avalon?

A: No, none of the helicopter operations will be visible from the Avalon area.

Q: Can we ship the deer off Island?

A: Shipping the deer off the Island is not feasible as it traumatizes the deer, leading to capture myopathy, a non-infectious disease in which extreme exertion, struggle, or stress causes muscle damage in wild and domestic animals. It could also introduce diseases and parasites to the mainland, causing ecological issues elsewhere.

Q: Can you control them with birth control?

A: Controlling deer with birth control is impractical due to a variety of reasons including the difficulty of administering it to solitary free-ranging animals who live in rugged terrain.  Models predict it would take 15 years to get the population down to zero using birth control making it impractical in the face of climate change and more frequent wildfires.

Q: Can the deer be fenced in and contained?

A: Fencing or containment is not a viable solution as it is cruel to contain the deer to a small area and they are likely to breach the fences continuously.  Additionally deer and other wildlife get caught in fences leading to inhumane deaths.

Q: You’re saying it’s more humane to remove (kill) the deer because they are suffering; but how can we call killing an animal humane?

A: While the decision to kill the deer is difficult, it is considered more humane than allowing them to suffer from starvation caused by their overpopulation.

Q: When will this take place?

A: At the earliest, late 2024.