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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Deer in the 'Hood

Yes there are deer in the neighborhood - I took this picture in our backyard this morning - but this is not a good thing.  In fact it bothers me far more than having the occasional bear about the house.  An anthropologist named Richard Nelson recently wrote a book titled 'Heart & Blood: Living with Deer in America'.  Richard is also famous for his ethnographies about northern Alaskan peoples.  In Deer in America he outlines just what happens when you take deer out of the wilderness setting and put them in neighborhoods.  Both sides lose.

A recurring theme in his book is that once deer get used to living in human neighborhoods they are tough to get out.  They start out as oddities - a sighting that is rare and exciting - and end up a nuisance - an all too common sight, grazing on people's lawns and shrubbery.  Richard outlines how this happens quite quickly once deer realize the benefits of living in close proximity to humans and overcome their natural fear of humans.  And, once established, they are almost impossible to eradicate.

I believe deer are beginning to move into town.  Just two years ago you almost never saw deer in Abercrombie Park.  Now, I see them practically every time I go (At one point last winter, I saw deer on 15 consecutive walks).  Lately, I am even seeing deer around my house.  What is bringing them into town?  I think the recent harsh winters with lots of snow have helped push them into town, but we have had harsh winters in the past and deer never became quite so prevalent.  Personally, I think a few people are feeding the deer.  And it does not take many 'feeders' to establish a colony of deer living over a large urban area - especially when the weather has been so harsh.

These people are not doing the deer or their neighbors a favor.  Dogs are chasing and killing the deer, deer are eating people's ornamental shrubs, it will not be long before it will be difficult to grow a garden without a high fence around it.  Perhaps I'm an alarmist, but I do know I now have to put my dogs on leashes whenever I go to the Park for a walk.  And if this morning is any indication - it might not even be safe to let the dogs out of the house without a leash.  If you are feeding the deer please stop, if no one is feeding the deer then I'm an alarmist. Patrick


Roxann said...

Maybe the deer in your yard was attracted by the scent of other deer; I bet there are enough bones in and around your barn to cobble together a whole herd of deer. Did you shoot the thing?


Zoya, Patrick, Nora and Stuart said...

Nah - I didn't shoot him, too small and no horns. I generally leave the runts to Mike.

As to the bones I seriously thought they might help keep the deer away. I thought the dogs would help too. Dumb deer to wander by our place (there were actually three deer - doe and two little ones). Perhaps I should hang bones on our fence? Make it some sort of warning. I'll probably have to use an electric fence for the garden.


Anonymous said...

I heard about the eagle incident in Kodiak. Deer in your neighborhood and eagles in trucks, it must be a tough winter. I agree with you Patrick, when wild animals attempt to move into neighborhoods it usually doesn't end well :(