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Deer oh Deer: The Cervine Overpopulation in Suburbia

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They creep from the shadows, with numbers nigh uncountable.  They descend upon the orderly and the fruitful and render it barren.  Their ranks swell daily, with none to halt them.  They balk at nothing and move with inexorable purpose.  And yet only a tiny few can bear to fight back.  The battleground?  America.  The enemy?  Bambi.
Deer represent the largest threat to American forests, beating out fires, industry, and even climate change.  They cause billions of dollars in damage yearly, with one billion being done to crops, $750,000 to timber, $280,000 to housing, and four billion to cars.  They are the most damaging vertebrate on the planet and devour fifteen million tons of vegetation each year.  They’re one of the prime carriers of Lyme disease, as they carry the ticks with Lyme disease.  The number and severity of deer-related automobile accidents is truly spectacular.  Their population has been increasing at a factor of ten each year for the past 90 years.  Despite all of this, the reaction to any sort of culling is vitriolic, to say the least.
Part of the reason lies in the innate cuteness of the deer.  After all, the sight of fawns gamboling is objectively cute.  But the main difficulty with limiting the deer population is that nothing short of violence seems to work.  Sterilizing is nearly impossible, as deer can become hyper-fertile, producing twins and triplets, and they react badly to being trapped—sometimes they struggle so hard they break their own legs, which doesn’t go well for anyone involved.  Relocation isn’t possible, as there’s no area that needs deer.  Predation is an entirely different debate, as anything big enough to take down a deer can easily snatch a dog or two, and most will attack humans if they feel threatened.  Simply using repellent does next to nothing—aside from making money for the companies which sell it—and fences are laughably futile.
And so, the only remaining course is killing, which has its own host of problems.  Many places furtively shoot a few deer every month with crossbows, so as to not alert the populace, but this is illegal in many places and generally useless.  Such a small population decrease is nothing, when deer can, as previously stated, massively increase in fertility.  Poisoning doesn’t work, as something which can kill deer will also kill most other things, and we learned our lesson with disease after the disaster which was Myxomatosis.  Shooting raises the question of collateral damage, bow hunting is arduous and scarce, and clubs just don’t work—especially of the golf variety.  And this doesn’t even begin to cover the fact that many people can’t stand the idea of killing deer and some actively feed them, so the community backlash tends to be extreme.
In addition, due to meat restrictions, there is usually very little you can do with a deer corpse, which means that they are almost always just taken out into the woods and left.  But that causes other problems, such as sanitary conditions, public awareness, scavengers, and, of course, the smell.  To make matters worse, given deer repopulation rates, the killing could never stop—essentially meaning that hunters would need to continually shoot does at a high enough rate to keep the population stable and low.  Hunters tend to like to shoot bucks, given the trophies they offer, so switching their focus would be difficult.
But didn’t Yellowstone Park solve their difficulties with the importation of wolves?  And didn’t the wolves help the park immeasurably?  Indeed they did.  But importing predators, as stated earlier, would be nearly impossible for many reasons.  First, people simply don’t want them.  The number of movies, TV shows, and books with wolves and mountain lions attacking people and pets is so high that their supposed lethality and danger is nearly supernatural, despite the evidence to say otherwise.  Any mention of introducing anything larger than a fox causes mass hysteria, immediate anger, and cries of “Think of the children!” and “But they’ll eat my Fluffy!”  No thought is ever given to standard precautions such as not letting children and pets outside at night or simply carrying a flashlight, as society simply refuses to take that risk at all, or even accept the inconvenience.  Second, they’re tricky.  Wolves don’t work well even in moderately rural areas, and most forms of large feline fare even worse.  Coyotes, which are accomplished city-dwellers, will sometimes take a fawn, but deer tend to be a larger threat to a coyote than a coyote to a deer.  Third, they’re often messy.  If a wolf pack kills a deer in your front lawn, the semi-eaten corpse is going to stay there until the scavengers clean it up.  As deer carcasses tend to not be very good objects de art, most people with a sense of pride concerning their lawn are not too happy about the pieces tattered flesh ornamenting it.  And fourth, since many people have serious moral qualms about humanely killing deer with a bullet to the head, many more are simply unable to allow deer to be chased down and ripped to shreds.
This leaves one final option—ignoring the problem altogether.  This solution, although utterly useless, is the one most tend to use.  The reason?  It’s just that much easier.  Simply put, people don’t want to have to consider it.  Deer are cute, they eat your garden, and complaining about it gives a sense of release.  Most just don’t consider the problem worth the effort.  But here’s the rub: almost everyone who thinks about it realizes that the problem is worth the effort.  The population isn’t going to decrease until they run out of food, and in this era of watered, fertilized, and professionally maintained greenery, this limit may be more than you’d think.  And what happens then, after the roof is met?  The deer aren’t going anywhere, so that population will be held indefinitely.  And recall the limit, which is where there isn’t enough plant life to keep more deer alive.  No trees, no flowers, no foliage of any kind.  In the winter, starving deer will die and litter the roads and barren yards, their numbers only to be refilled when everyone tries desperately to grow a lawn once again in the summer.  In the spring and fall, deer will practically encrust the area, and accidents will become regular occurrences even in small neighborhoods.
In short, there is no perfect solution.  There may not even be a decent solution, as repellents fail, killing is more trouble than it’s worth, introducing predators is impossible, and relocating—well, absolutely no one wants more deer.  The struggle against this threat is fraught with dangers, both political and economical, both moral and social.  But while it may be difficult to decide on a plan, all agree on one thing: something must be done.

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