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Hunting controls deer overpopulation

By Jeff Lane
Posted Thursday, December 28, 2006

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Bear Creek, NC - First, I really hate that I have to qualify this, but I do. I am not a hunter. I did hunt a little when I was in my teens, but honestly, I never really got much out of it. The one time I thought I had a deer in my sights, it turned out to be an idiot who thought blaze orange wasn't worthwhile. He nearly got a bullet in the chest. I have not hunted since, but I do enjoy shooting sports.

Now, that being said, I can also say that my wife would probably share your and Siglinda's sentiments regarding deer and other wildlife, and I would even be inclined to agree as one of the biggest reasons I moved out here to Chatham from Durham was to get away from the city and get to somewhere more like where I grew up. Quiet, wooded and full of animals.

However, there is a problem with the "Why do we have to be so cruel and unjust to the poor defenseless deer" arguement. That problem is US.

Since people (other than Native Americans) first came to this land, they have constantly and consistantly expanded their territory. In doing so, they have driven deer and other wildlife into smaller and smaller areas. Couple that with the decimation of natural predators caused by hunting, farming and urbanization (not to mention some other idiots who thought they would look good as a coat or on a wall) and what has happened is that WE humans have removed the deer's natural predators.

If we, as the animals responsible for dominating the local ecosystem, do NOT hunt and kill the deer (other wildlife too, but most others are small enough to still have natural predators to keep the populations down) they multiply. Soon they overpopulate an area and have to go further for food. This leads to them wandering into cities and into highways and onto country roads where we again kill them with our large metal death machines. I personally have now lost two vehicles to deer who ended up enjoying the roadside buffet only to dart out into the street in front of me as I passed by them.

But that's not all. As you said, there ARE measures that can be taken to help keep them from committing vehicular suicide en masse. The real problem is that without predators, they thrive. When they thrive, they multiply. When they multiply, they eat more. Now, since we have cut their available foraging lands (not specifically in Chatham, but in Chatham and all over the country), they do not have enough food to sustain the increased numbers. Then they slowly start going hungry.

Those cute doe-eyed fawns and weeping momma deer cry not from the hunters bullet, which is usually quick, but from a very slow and agonizing death by starvation. Once starvation sets in, disease kicks in. Then all those thriving beautiful deer that you were so proud to defend die those slow painful deaths.

Either way, nature will thin the herds

Either way, nature will thin the herds. Either we do it, by hunting, as mankind is the natural predator now that we have eliminated most of the natural predators in this area, or we do not do it and they eventually overpopulate and begin dying off in large groups, weak, starving, diseased, gasping for breath, unable to even stand for the last several days of their miserable lives. I have seen it first hand. Not with deer, but with other starving animals.

There have been other suggestions for controlling the populations, includng herding them off away from food supplies. That just leads to increased starvation, weakness and mass deaths. Some have suggested contraceptives. You may wish to volunteer for that, but I have no desire to go giving the pill or whatever to wild animals. But there have been many studies showing the problems with deer overpopulation, and the causes come from three main areas. Human overpopulation. Eradication of natural predators. Lack of hunting to cull the deer populations.

One other suggestion I have read about was re-introducing predators to do the work that the hunters do. But when you do that, you also introduce meat eating predators into areas that may be moderately populated. So though you may save the deer by removing hunting but reintroducing other predators, will you still feel so good about it when those predators hunt your own animals, livestock and children? That's not fearmongering... that's a fact.

Predators are naturally lazy. They do not go for the strongest target. They go for the weakest. Fenced in goats are a lot easier to get to and eat than a scampering white-tail. Your pet dog out for a play day in the yard makes a very tempting target too. As does your kids out playing Robinson Carusoe in the woods.

I feel for Siglinda's situation. In fact, I dare say that if I ever caught someone spotlighting in my back yard, they would probably get a very angry welcoming. And God forbid should I ever catch someone firing at a deer close to my house.

But harping on the "We cant hunt the deer, its inhumane" argument is disingenuous. And relocating deer is also not really viable. So we pick up 10,000 deer from Chatham county and move them to the Uwarrie range. Well, now they can overpopulate that area, and starve. So all you have really done is remove the starving creatures from your back yard and dumped them into someone elses back yard. And I haven't even touched on the crop destruction, deforsetation and disruption of entire ecosystems because of deer overpopulation.

Like it or not, we humans are the top of the food chain.

So I just wanted to share some perspective. I do not have a problem at all with hunting. I think it is necessary. Like it or not, we humans are the top of the food chain. It does not matter wheter you believe the biblical bit about how God made all the creatures for man to use, or if you belive Darwin and accept that we are the strongest of the species and that we are the top of the food chain and thus the ultimate predator.

Either way, it is ulitmately man's responsibility now to keep the populations of other animals under control After all, WE are the sole reason that problem exists today.

So here is some reading on the subject. They are informative, and I would suggest that you read each one (see related links) :

A good essay on deer biology, and how they interact with their ecosystem, including how they destroy it when they are not controlled populationwise.

And the Audubon Society on the effects of efforts to keep hunters from killing deer.

The McGill Daily

Even The Nature Conservancy agrees that hunting is vital.

SoO please read these and understand why hunting is important. The issue you raise is far different from Siglinda's plight, despite her personal dislike for hunting as well. Her issue is more one of irresponsible hunters if they are that close to her house, or even coming onto her property and hunting, especially at night. Siglinda has legal and safety issues that are related to, but not the same as, emotional issues involved in the killing of an animal.

Hunting controls deer overpopulation

Related info:
Deer biology

Nature Conservancy

McGill Daily

Audubon Society

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