Letters focus on dangers of deer

October 22, 2007|By MICHAEL DRESSER

A few weeks ago, this column was an unrestrained tirade on the subject of deer - focusing on the animals' insidious quest to crash through the windshields of passing motorists.

That same day, through no design I'm aware of, another section of The Sun ran a sensitive and sympathetic feature by Abigail Tucker about two Baltimore County women who have made it their mission to protect the adorable white-tailed creatures from the depredations of bloodthirsty hunters.

Judging by the e-mail received by Tucker and myself, our readership is rich in Bambi-phobic misanthropes. No wonder I feel at home in Maryland.

David Pardoe of Columbia addressed a message to both Tucker and myself, which - like other e-mails that follow - runs in edited form:

The couple of vigilantes who run their own deer protection crusade are pathetic. They cavalierly dismiss Lyme disease and deer-auto collisions and their human toll. They also apparently are ignorant or uncaring about the ecological toll that the rampantly out-of-control deer population is causing across the country.

Deer browse forests from the ground to as far as they can reach, thereby wiping out an entire understory ecosystem. Ground nesting birds and those that nest a few feet off the ground have lost their critical habitat. Native plants and flowers are wiped out. Populations of birds such as wood pewees, indigo buntings, flycatchers, cuckoos, warblers, ovenbirds, grouse, woodcock, and wild turkeys are losing their habitat. Flowers like trilliums are at stake.

It is estimated that in 1900 there were approximately 500,000 white-tailed deer and today's estimate is about 33 million. The deer population is severely out of balance and needs to be greatly thinned. An article in Audubon magazine entitled "Wanted: More Hunters" spelled out the problems. By the way, I am not a hunter defending my recreation; I am a retired wildlife conservationist who deplores the loss of natural areas and wildlife, whether by bulldozers or deer.

Peter E. Dans writes:

My car was hit by a deer about 10 years ago on Falls Road at twilight when I was going to the airport to pick up my daughter, who was coming home for Thanksgiving. Fortunately the car suffered only minor damage (unreported) and the deer turned back and ran away. I have had numerous other close calls on Falls Road, Padonia Road, and Ivy Hill Road, but have been very wary, using the strategies you described.

As someone who saw Bambi as a child and carried that image for almost six decades, I felt the same as the women interviewed until my accident, which was followed by up to 17 deer coming through our property devastating the plants and shrubbery as well as being the source of ticks bearing Lyme disease to friends and family. The attempts at controlling the herd have been dismal failures, which is not just a problem for residents but for the health of the deer themselves.

Bunny Dadds of Cockeysville writes:

I use Paper Mill Road every morning. During the fall and winter season I call animal control at least once a week to report a dead deer lying next to the road. I walk the NCR trail daily along with some other people and we do know where the deer hang out because we see them back in the woods and crossing the trail. They are in my yard as well as other neighbors. Why can't food be put out with birth control in it?

They do need to be thinned out but can't it be done by sharpshooters and the food given to the soup kitchens?

Bill Perry of Baltimore takes issue with one point made in my column.

People seem to think dusk to dawn is the only time deer cross roads. That is really a false notion. I've seen them all day long in the area around Burtonsville and also by Fort Meade.

And as more communities spring up in their area they are becoming less fearful of humans. My brother lives close to a golf course and we've spent many hours watching deer in the area behind his home all day long. I agree they are more active at dusk and dawn, but don't be surprised when one bolts across [Route] 295 at other times of the day.

A few weeks ago, Howard County educator Susan White had a deer collision at 2:15 p.m.

I had dropped my son at York College in Pennsylvania and had stopped at Wegman's to do some shopping. I got back on [Interstate] 83 South (I live in Woodstock) to continue home and suddenly on my left a deer had come running across all those lanes of traffic. It ran into the rear passenger door and window just behind me. I managed to get off the road without hitting anyone ... don't know how as there was lots of traffic going very fast.

I called my husband and managed to drive the car home. My Highlander ended up with $5,400 in damage to both doors, the windows, the frame, etc. I feel lucky to have come out of it with no injuries to myself ... but deer are everywhere!! It is very scary.

COMMENT: The last two readers make a good point about daytime alertness. Perry's warning about vigilance around golf courses is especially apt.

I can understand the feelings of deer lovers. The animals are magnificent to behold. But so were the natural predators that are no longer present in Maryland. In the absence of wolves and mountain lions, some deer must be dispatched. It would be better done by hunters than Hyundais.

As for the final destination of the venison, if hunters want to donate to soup kitchens, more power to them. For those who don't, I recommend a hearty red wine from the Rhone Valley or a California petite sirah.

gettingthere@baltsun.com

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