Tuesday, 12 November, 2002

Deer overpopulation is a nation-wide problem

It seems that my neighborhood isn't the only place in the country that's fighting a deer population gone wild.  According to this New York Times article (free registration required; try this link [Free Republic] for a mirror), it's a nation-wide problem.  Deer populations have exploded in the last decade.  Estimates place the number of deer nationwide at around 20,000,000—about the same number as 200 years ago.  But today their predators (wolves, bears, and wild cats) are mostly gone, and their habitats have shrunk drastically.  Today's deer thrive in heavily populated areas, where they feast on landscaping and bed down in small patches of undeveloped urban and suburban land.  According to the article, population densities of more than 15 to 20 deer per square mile cause noticeable degradation to the ecosystem.  In some places today, deer number in the hundreds per square mile.  I've counted well over 50 deer on a single walk from my house to the stop sign a half mile away.

Today's deer have two predators:  cars and hunters.  Estimates put the number of deer killed on the nations highways at about one million annually, along with about 100 people and $1 billion in property damage.  That makes deer deadlier than alligators, sharks, bears, and rattlesnakes combined.  Bambi has fangs.  Hunters take a few, but mostly bucks, which isn't very effective as a population control measure.  Not when a single buck can impregnate 50 or more does in a season. 

How to control the populations?  That's a tough problem.  Biologists have tried a number of methods, none of which has proven very effective.  Whatever, we certainly shouldn't be feeding them like my idiot neighbors do.