Monday, December 16, 2013

A 12 Point Buck Stands in Your Way - What Do You Do?

Scene two years ago: A Colorado cougar near its kill- not far from us.

Okay, you're out for your morning speed walk and have just left the house and turned to the east on your cul-de-sac in your neighborhood. I emphasize here the neighborhood aspect, suburban and lined with homes on both sides. Within a few seconds you realize the sidewalk isn't occupied by just you but also by a 12 point buck deer - frantically searching for some escape. What do you do? Well, minus any hunting equipment you cross to the other side of the street and hope he realizes you're not a threat. Such transpired with me yesterday morning. Where the buck is now, I can't say. But hope he found an exit.

Especially as deer anywhere in neighborhoods attract predators- namely cougars.  Contrary to urban myths or national myths, the populations of deer, bear, cougars and even gators in Florida haven't receded but rather exploded since the mid-20th century. There are plenty of reasons, but as referenced in a recent article in TIME p. 38, DEC. 9),  one of the prime reasons is human conservation efforts. Oh, and also setting off suburban areas that lure a number of beasties in.

In the case of bears, killing black bears was outlawed and "patches of forest were linked and converted into preserves.'  Partly too economics entered- and people moved into forested areas. In NJ, for example, TIME notes the forested area has remained at 42% but the human population has quadrupled. This is an invitation for bear-human encounters since bears like forests too.

According to Ellen Stroud, an environmentalist at Bryn Mawr college, "today the northeastern United States is almost 75 percent forested."

Deer also aren't the lil "Bambis" Disney and infatuated animal lovers make them out to be. They can harbor ticks that transmit Lyme disease, not so nice if you get it. In addition, as TIME notes (p. 40):

"Some 200 American die each year in 1.2 million collisions with wandering deer - wrecks that cause damage resulting in more than $4 billion in repairs, according to the Insurance Information Institute."

And don't let us even get started on feral pigs, now taking over Texas and most other states.  TIME again (p. 41):

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that some 5 million feral pigs do $1.5 billion in damage each year. The hogs are digging through garbage in the suburbs of Atlanta, rooting or acorns in Houston and plowing up golf courses from the Oklahoma plains to the heart of Indiana."

The segment goes on to note of the worry of the feral pigs spreading disease to the domesticated cousins.

How bad has the beast explosion been? Using a colored graphic on page 40, TIME shows the deer population has increased by 800 percent since the middle of the 20th century - to nearly 32 million. Cougars have increased by 1,600 percent, black bears by 320 percent to 450,000 and gators by 400% to 5 million.

The solution: The herd must be culled. Quoting TIME (ibid.):

"Humans caused the near collapse of American wildlife and now that the critters are back it is our job to help maintain the delicate balance of the ecosystems we have designed and built."

Some counties may even consider  zoning suburban areas for hunting.  Not hunting with firearms which  could send ammo flying far and wide, even into someone's home - but hunting as it used to be done using crossbows.   The game killed can then be disposed of, or perhaps eaten - a lot of people like venison in our parts, for example.

In any case, doing nothing is no longer an option.

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