RealClearScience scribe Ross Pomeroy informs us that whitetailed deer are a menace and we should kill more of them. I know plenty of wildlife biologists, farmers and rural residents agree. Excerpt:
In 2017, the total deer population in the United States was an estimated 33.5 million, down from 38.1 million in 2000. Hunters should rejoice over their excellent shooting, and then get outside and kill millions more.
This macabre call to arms might unsettle anyone whose heart ached at viewing the plight of poor Bambi, but it’s a prescription that’s sorely needed, for at their current population, deer are ravaging ecosystems across the country.
This wasn’t the case at the turn of the nineteenth century. Then, after decades of wanton hunting, there may have been as few as 300,000 deer left roaming the wilds of America. Hunting moratoriums, favorable human-caused ecosystem changes (i.e. more farm land), declining wolf and cougar populations (the major natural predators of deer), two world wars (leaving fewer hunters at home), and yes, the influential film Bambi, all combined to send deer populations skyrocketing during much of the 20th century. The recovery was wonderful for deer, but terrible for other organisms.
Deer devoured countless wildflowers close to extinction and devastated saplings of cedar, hemlock, and oak. All of this eating, amounting to more than 2,000 pounds of plant matter per deer per year, might account for widespread declines of North American songbird populations, which rely on many of the plants upon which deer gorged themselves.
Observing the detrimental changes wrought by grazing deer, legendary ecologist Aldo Leopold wrote, “I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anaemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddlehorn.”
It’s important to note that Aldo Leopold, an old-fashioned naturalist as opposed to how the term ‘ecologist’ is tossed around willy-nilly today, was himself a hunter and advocated the use of scientifically managed hunting as a vital tool in wildlife management. In fact, Leopold is generally regarded as the father of modern wildlife management.
I remember when I was a little kid in Iowa in the late Sixties and early Seventies, seeing a deer was kind of a big deal. It was exciting – “hey, I saw a deer the other day!” By the time I left for good in the mid Eighties, they were a damned nuisance.
The various states need to open up deer hunting. Some Eastern states are starting to; in some places you can shoot one doe a day. And does are what we need to kill. They’re the ones that breed. And they’re great eating.
A population that outgrows the land’s carrying capacity is headed for a bad end, by starvation or pandemic. We’re already seeing the spread of chronic wasting disease in cervids all over North America. Bringing to population down some would help prevent what might be a catastrophic end to our deer herds.
The bad thing is, numbers of hunters are dropping in the US. Take a kid hunting! It’s good for the kid and good for the environment.