Hunters, DEP, invent new justifications for killing
September 14, 2010
Each year, deer hunters get support for their violent hobby from Connecticut's
Department of Environmental Protection -- the agency that profits from hunter
licensing and federal excise taxes on weapons and ammunition.
Nevertheless, and to the chagrin of the Fairfield County Municipal Deer
Management Alliance, hunting is losing its appeal in our state -- mirroring a
countrywide trend that has seen the hunting community wane for two or more
Fewer than one percent of Connecticut residents hunt. According to the National
Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, 12.5 million U.S.
residents purchased hunting licenses in 2006 -- a decline of 10 percent from
1996. In contrast, 71 million U.S. residents, or 31 percent, were counted as
wildlife-watchers -- folks who observe and photograph birds and other
Without new generations becoming Nimrod's devotees, state agencies will be
forced to talk about more than the interests of a minority who chase deer with
bows and rifles. But officials are invested in careers of management and
control. How will they keep encouraging the public interest in violently
As it happens, Nimrod appears not only as a hunter in the biblical story, but is
also traditionally considered a leading builder of the Tower of Babel -- an
edifice representing the confounding of everyone's speech. And the speech
surrounding deerstalking promotions is becoming more confounded by the year.
Since it's no longer widely acceptable to call hunting recreation, hunters
invent social benefits to excuse the rampages. We hear about the need to defend
wildflowers from over-browsing. We hear about heading off collisions between
automobiles and deer. We're told hunters feed the hungry. We hear that hunters
protect our communities from Lyme disease.
The Fairfield County Municipal Deer Management Alliance recently released its
"Economic Impact of Deer Overpopulation in Fairfield County," a report geared to
soften resistance to deer killings on private property. The report empowers
residents to blame deer for the above-mentioned perils. Officials can use the
study to buttress costly notions that paying new fees to shoot deer will ensure
public safety and save us all money on landscaping, medical costs, and
auto-repair needs. But the data is derived from a 2003 survey of residents in
Bernards Township, N.J., as an editorial on Sept. 3 in Greenwich Time and The
Advocate pointed out.
If we're keeping score of overpopulation, let's begin with honesty and accuracy:
We humans comprise the one species on Earth whose population is truly out of
control -- overriding natural mechanisms that keep living populations in check.
We fail to acknowledge how our reckless overdevelopment and penchant for
procreation directly impacts and degrades our relationship with deer and other
free-living animals, and how that diminishes us as a culture.
On top of that, hunting drives a phenomenon that's been tagged "evolution in
reverse" -- making the smaller and weaker deer more likely to survive. And it
can cause deer populations to increase in a cyclical reaction to us. The more
you hunt, the more deer you get.
In contrast, nature itself works to balance deer herds according to available
food, territory, the health of carnivorous animals, and winter weather, which
restrict food and range. Numerous studies over the years have shown that limits
to food and sheltering foliage causes animal populations to limit themselves;
but it doesn't take scientific studies to make the point. Most people with
common sense know this.
Deer do not cause Lyme disease. Black-legged ticks carry the disease when
immature, on smaller mammals and birds. Our dogs can also carry the ticks (and
wiping out deer would make the dogs even more attractive candidates for ticks).
Vigilant checks for ticks on the body and prompt removal, especially in summer
and early autumn, are important for preventing the disease.
Friends of Animals studied the matter of cars hitting deer. We found evidence
that hunting exacerbates car accidents, as it can frighten deer out of their
normal meanderings and into unfamiliar terrain and roadways. Of some 1.5 million
reports of U.S. drivers hitting deer every year, about half of these accidents
occur in October, November, and December. Hunters will attribute this to deer
being sexually active, but these are the months when hunters themselves are
active. The claim that hunting reduces car accidents is not solid, and we have
prevention techniques that do work, such as reflectors combined with regular
road maintenance and speed limit reductions.
Nature is being managed to death. It's time for communities to call for
ceasefires, and reverse a trend that's bad for all of us -- humans and nonhumans
Priscilla Feral is president of Darien-based Friends of Animals.