It was a confluence of many things. First I read “Where the Wild Things Were by William Stolzenburg. The subtitle gives you the gist, Life, Death and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators. Then there was Rambling Wood’s post with photos of deer browsing at her ground feeders. Then there was Daisy Fae’s aside about how many deer carcasses she and the kids counted on the way to Washington, DC. And I came to believe we need to reintroduce predators into our ecosystems, as they have in Yellowstone.
One of the thrusts of the book is that we are being over-run with deer. I have seen other authors call them “urban cattle” because they persist in large urban parks. But what harm could Bambi possibly do?
One of the sins we can lay at Disney’s feet is the “Aw, how cute” reaction to deer. Yeah, they’re cute, until you get lyme disease from a deer tick. Or they eat up your vegetable garden. Or they browse away rare wildflowers. The author notes that in the southern United States there are only two places where the once abundant lady slipper orchid now grows. One is behind an eight foot deer-proof fence. The other is on a cliff so steep the scientist who studies them has to rappel down.
So I look at Rambling Wood’s photos, and instead of thinking “how cute”, I think “those deer are way too close to humans, and not afraid enough.” Because there are no wolves. And hunting is closely regulated. They have lost their fear of us. And of other predators.
Consider for instance, the fact that deer season is only for a couple of months a year. And we hunt upside down. Instead of taking the weak, old and sickly, as predators would, we hunt for the buck with the big antlers, the cream of the crop. So that guy gets taken out of the gene pool, and some inferior buck gets the harem. We don’t allow the shooting of does, despite the fact that there are a lot more does in a herd than bucks.
Deer herds, without predators, are getting out of control. They are so out of control that several years ago they had meetings all over Pennsylvania trying to sell thinning the herds. Some of the most strident objectors were hunters. Apparently, we humans have gotten lazy. When we “hunt”, we want to sit in a deer blind, with some corn at the bottom, and shoot Bambi. We don’t want to walk too far, or have to actually stalk our prey. Since they couldn’t sell the hunters on thinning the herds with extended hunting seasons, they ended up thinning the herds at night, with police sharpshooters wearing ninja suits and using silenced rifles.
The only relatively large predator that persists in the US is the coyote. The wily beast is everywhere, including in Seattle. One researcher in Southern California, noted that there was a decrease of songbirds in the chapparel, except in one section, where there were coyotes living. Why was that?, you might ask. The answer was that the coyotes were keeping down the number of a smaller predator that was preying on the songbirds. One known around the world as felis cattus domesticus. Yes, the house cat.
So, do I think we should bring back the wolves? Hell, yes, especially in places like Washington state, where we have large areas of wilderness. In other places which are more crowded, and not likely to buy into that stratagem, perhaps we can change our hunting laws to keep the herds down. Maybe have a lottery to hunt year-round. Perhaps allow more does to be hunted.
In any case, I think you should read the book. It’s interesting to see the changes that have come about since wolves have come back to Yellowstone.