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
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
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
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
Jeremy Bentham 1748--1832