Horns vs. horns

November 11, 2005

Some suburbanites are heading into the city in growing numbers, but they aren't the ones the Chamber of Commerce - or urban gardeners - will welcome with open arms. The white-tailed deer staking claims in Baltimore are a prime example of creative adaptation to Maryland's changing landscape as well as a hearty challenge to the two-legged residents. But we expect they can adapt, too.

These next few weeks, though, are the most challenging of the year. "The rut," as experts put it, has begun, with bucks chasing does, vehicles and even their own reflections in plate-glass windows; the successful ones will soon settle down to creating fawns. The full moon next week should mark the height of such activity, says the state Department of Natural Resources.

It's not hard to see why deer are choosing to move closer to town - people are taking over their old stomping grounds. Or why instead of eating soybeans, corn and fruit from orchards, today's deer are downing azaleas, rhododendron and other ornamental plants. That is what's around to eat. The animals are adapting to their new environment, which is a good sign for the continuation of the species and a good example of nature's basic hardiness.

They are not about to learn good-neighbor behavior, though, so the owners of the azaleas and rhododendron must do some of their own learning. Raising good fences, spraying plants with scents that deer don't like and clearing underbrush from the edges of the yard could stem many disputes at the start. For more serious disputes, the city Bureau of Animal Control can mediate.

As with many neighbors, deer are both a delight and an annoyance. And for the next few weeks, they are a hazard on the roads.

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