Culling the neighbors

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The town where I live is nicknamed “Tree Town” in part because of its many parks and the fact that extensive wooded areas surround it. Thus, human residents see a fair amount of wildlife, including skunks, opossum, badger and (ick!) feral cats. Occasionally red fox and coyote turn up in suburbia. Squirrels? Too bloody many to count!

Deer are by far the largest animals to visit. A patch of woods near my house is sanctuary for around 10 deer, including a buck. The herd appears frequently in the colder months, where its members eat ground-fall apples in a nearby yard or strip bark from tree branches when other food becomes scarce.

I love watching deer. They are beautiful, graceful, gentle-appearing creatures. The way they remain on alert whilst grazing, ears turned this way and that like early warning radar, fascinates me.

Much of my state is rural and large numbers of deer inhabit it. Thus, many people I know participate in bow and gun hunting, and their pastime contributes millions of dollars to the economy. I choose not to hunt but do not oppose others doing so. In fact, I enjoy the venison stews and jerky that I am invited to partake of now and then.

Naturally, not everyone in town is as enamored with deer as I am. It isn’t uncommon for homeowners to adorn their yards with plants—like hosta—that delight deer’s palates. Because of this temptation deer turn up in unexpected areas, to the surprise and annoyance of some local bipeds.

In recent times this human vexation has taken the form of a movement to reduce the deer population. It involves hiring a team of sharpshooters that track and shoot a specified number of deer in places where human beings won’t be endangered. This means people with rifles don’t interrupt folks grilling in their back yards, as they stake out their quarry.

Newton’s Third Law states “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This applies to many situations in life, including the present topic. Just as there are people locally that want the deer population culled, so also a portion of the citizenry opposes it. As the scheduled date for the cull approached the positions of those on both sides of the issue hardened. Stickers saying STOP THE CULL started popping up on cars, and online forums were peppered with comments pro and con. Despite the brouhaha the riflemen carried out their work without incident.

What lessons might this situation offer? (1.) Those that live where wild animals predate human habitation must expect them to be around now and then. (2.) And, if people insist on planting things that attract such animals they are guaranteed to see them on their property. (3.) Finally, folks must realize that the authorities will take measures to keep the animals in check.

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