15 January 2007

Wildlife

A long, long time ago in a place not too far away,
I was a Flight Commander.
One of the Warrant Officers that worked for me, a guy named "Rex", was an avid sportsman. Professional and a hard worker, I liked him a lot.
But there was a subject we'd frequently argue about: killing deer.
His argument was that hunters sorta play Darwin by culling the numbers and keeping the overall population healthy.
I was 23, and of course knew everything.
I concluded that Darwin's laws would cull the weakest of the herd, leaving the strongest animals to breed and improve the population over time.
Hunters are naturally looking to kill the strongest buck with the largest rack of antlers. So in actuality they are "anti-Darwins".
Looking back, I can still see truth in my argument, but I now know I was no wildlife expert. Today I'm much more aware of what's goin' on around me, and I'm learnin' every day.

This time of year, the sun is long-gone when I leave home for work.
Tonight I backed out of my drive, put the selector in "D", and had gotten all of 15 seconds into my trip to work when a Red Fox darted across the road about 30 feet in front of me.
We don't often see foxes, so the sight brought a smile to my face. But it set me to thinking about the changes in wildlife numbers around our home:
More Foxes. More Deer. More Hawks. Lots of wild Turkeys.
We see a Bald Eagle now and then.

There are no longer any trees within 50 feet of a pond back in the timber behind our house. Beavers have gnawed them all down. Beaver numbers have risen enough that Department of Natural Resources folks have had to relocate several of them to less populated areas.

Wander into our backyard on a clear moonlit night when a train is whistling it's approach at the crossing down the street, and the response of Coyotes will set the hair on your neck standing up. There are a bunch of 'em back there!
I've written previously about the reason for the coyote explosion-
White Tail Deer.
I wish Rex would come sit in my back yard. He could help solve a problem I now have... trying to keep a vegetable garden. Sara Jean and I can testify that deer love tulips, tree seedlings, and most any vegetables when the plants are about two inches tall.
Tonight on my 32 mile drive to work I saw two Does dead alongside the road, struck by motor vehicles. Coyotes chew the carcass at night, Turkey Vultures assist during the day. One carcass was almost totally stripped of meat- it's ribcage gleaming white in my headlights.

I still think deer are beautiful- tawny color and big gorgeous eyes.
But they certainly have become pests. Their numbers are such that in some areas of the State there's not enough food for them all, and some die of malnutrition. The DNR is trying to find ways to properly control the population.

The increase in predators is obviously the result of an increase in prey.
I'm glad to see some of them, like the foxes, more often.
It's also good to see that DNR programs for some endangered animals seem to be working.

My question is, can we keep the predators, but reduce the number of deer eating my garden as it emerges in the Spring?

4 comments:

Jason said...

Last week I almost took a little spill off the motorcycle when avoiding a deer - that was just after reading an article online about the VA deer population explosion.

k said...

One of the local neighborhoods here, a huge development called Kingsmill (where the Busch family, as in Anheuser-Busch, lives), that purportedly has such a deer infestation that one day a year they allow bow-hunters to roam the properties and thin them out. I don't know whether that's actually true -- seems pretty freakin' dangerous for the thousands of families that live there -- but that's the rumor...

And Husband, you be careful on the bike!

Anonymous said...

Next time you're at the barber ask for a bag of hair. Sprinkle this around the outside of your garden (not in it) and it'll help keep them out of the garden.

Mike said...

We went to Kelly's Island in Ohio a couple of years back. It is a 4 square mile island with a permanent human population of 80-100, but a deer herd of 400.

Not only are the deer inbred, having walked across the ice of Lake Erie long ago, but they eat everything in sight.

The evergreen trees at our Bed and Breakfast were bare from the ground up to about six feet.

I guess a few years back they let hunters loose, but you can't throw a rock on the island without hitting somebody's house.

The island is beautiful. Quiet and relaxing. I taught my wife to play chess out on the big porch and we watched the sunset, drinking wine.

Visitors aren't allowed to bring cars, so the entire island is seen by golf cart and bike. There are wineries, breweries and the best perch you will ever eat. There is also camping and a state park with giant, smooth glacier ravines from the ice age.

Anyway, the deer were bad but there was a more ominous danger. The local airport runway crosses the main road around the island!

Driving north on the road there are big trees on either side. Suddenly you come upon a stop sign and a 'Watch for Aircraft!' sign.

As you ease forward you can see the 9/27 runway crossing the road in front of you. Granted, runway, is being generous. I probably wouldn't try to land anything but a Super Cub with bush gear on that awfully short gravel path.

Congratulations on your retirement. I thank God for men and women like you every day.