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Starvation is not good management

This area needs to consider immunocontraceptives...

by Michael Cook, DVM

I usually confine my "barbs" to cartoons, but the article about winter kill of the local deer herd written by Joyce Campbell in the Jan. 24 issue seemed to require dialogue in place of a cartoon. In the article, Joyce related comments made by the regional manager of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Matt Monda, and WDFW field agent Scott Fitkin. In the article Monda states, "A longer range solution is to close the candy store" and "but it is tough to get everyone educated." Also Scott Fitkin stated, "Winter kill has its benefits."

Without sounding condescending and probably very uneducated according to Mr. Monda and Mr. Fitkin, I am humbly opposed to their "rubber stamp" governmental diatribe and misfortunate convoluted reasoning.

Reason No. 1: Mr. Monda states that the state is legally responsible for economic damage to orchards and crops caused by deer. If so, then common sense implies that feeding the starving and distressed animals would cause less damage to landowners' crops and less reparation to those farmers would be necessary, saving the state money during harsh winters when the deer are forced to eat fruit spurs and invade yards in search of food.

Reason No. 2: Mr. Fitkin states, "Feeding causes more problems than it solves and feeding concentrates the deer unnaturally, increasing the potential for disease and parasites, predators and overgrazing nearby natural habitat. The theory of "survival of the fittest" by Darwin and Mr. Fitkin is misrepresented here. As the deer population increases, so does the natural numbers of predators. As the deer population -- and therefore the food source for predators -- decreases, the predator numbers decrease.

Starvation affects both the weak and healthy. Starvation makes the previously healthy animal more prone to disease and parasitism. Starvation decreases the numbers of both deer and predators. Starvation is a lose-lose scenario.

Reason No. 3: Feeding stations could be moved incrementally farther and farther from towns, valley and orchards, encouraging the deer population away from those areas. This would allow herd populations to be dispersed and better managed in remote locations, where "natural selection" and predation would redirect predators (such as cougars) away from town and populated areas in search of their natural prey.

Both deer and predators find food where it is most plentiful and easily acquired.

Feeding stations make sense and would serve as a viable aid alternative in getting the deer out of the valley floor and the "candy store."

Reason No. 4: Starvation is inhumane and callous mismanagement. In a region that prides itself on management of the water for salmon and steelhead by reducing irrigation to local farmers and ranchers to ensure for adequate flow levels for those species, WDFW has seemingly turned its back and management skills on the local hoofed population.

It has always been my understanding that a portion of proceeds from each deer license sold is dedicated to the management and survival of the species. The key word here is management. Inaction is not an adequate alternative.

Reason no. 5: According to Mr. Monda, WDFW is planning an aggressive hunting season this year to reduce the number of resident deer on the valley floor by offering an "extra antlerless deer to hunters." If this is the logic of WDFW to solve the problem, then I am even more dismayed. What will keep other deer from replacing those harvested?

Deer are looking for food at a place that requires the least expenditure of energy. Providing food at increasingly remote locations would solve both the starvation issue and the nuisance of deer on the valley floor eating our orchards, shrubbery and yards.

I realize that Mr. Monda and Mr. Fitkin are merely government employees and so are required to recite prepared doctrine and rhetoric given them by their superiors in Olympia. But we need to be advocates. We need to care for those that cannot care for themselves.

Countless people in recent days have recounted to me stories of deer dying on their porches, driveways or caught on fences, too weak to make it over and dying straddled over the fence.

Mr. Monda, your indifference is sorely reflected in your statement that if an emergency declaration to feed the deer comes, it will be based on exceeding the capacity of social intolerance.

Inaction is not an acceptable alternative. I hope others will feel as repulsed and spurred to action as I have been by your insensitivity and attitude. We need to care for the blessings we have been given.

Michael N. "Doc" Cook is a doctor of veterinary medicine and an editorial cartoonist for the Methow Valley News.

"The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been witholden from them but by the hand of tyranny."
Jeremy Bentham 1748--1832


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