Lance: Deer are not the problem

I attended a meeting at the library last night on deer population here on San Juan Island and what I walked away with is: KILL DEER! My take is different than pretty much everyone else’s point of view at what felt like a Cabela-sponsored rally. We humans seem to have a psychological need to blame any living thing other than ourselves for the ecological and economic mess we find ourselves in. Deer are not the problem - we are. If we truly cared about the native plants, birds and insects, we would take a hard look at ourselves and shape up. Human overpopulation is the driving force of the problem. Deer, cougar, wolf and bear were all native to San Juan. Along comes man and we eliminated all of the apex predators that kept the island’s fragile ecosystem in balance. The islands were gorgeous, flourishing with indigenous plants and animals. Fast forward today, The San Juans have been transformed, ecologically mutilated. Native wildlife have been sacrificed for the production of cattle pigs, chickens, sheep and llama. Our old-growth forests have been clearcut, plowed under and replaced with plantations, field crops, exotic flowers, grasses, alfalfa and hayfields.

Several hunters were in the audience and they talked about needing to feed their families and that there is not enough land available for them to kill on. The parks are loosely protected (poaching a norm on San Juan) and therefore they are only allowed to kill deer on their own property or get permission from other property owners to hunt on their land. This is generous community with many resources for the less fortunate. I find it impossible to believe that deer are their only or even primary source of protein. We have a wonderful Food Bank and right next door to it Family Services that will provide for the destitute and the hungry. A few hunters in the audience claimed abject poverty, to the contrary, it is their excuse to justify their blood sport, their urge to kill.

For the non-hunters out there, let’s start living with our fellow species; they were here first. It is so pompous and shortsighted of us to move in and push the True Natives out. Sound familiar? Hunters, if you are able to “harvest” (as if these animals are crops) as many deer as the law allows and the deer vanish (because as the speaker/hunter/biostitute told us, we have no idea how many deer are on this island) how will you feed your families then? Islands are tricky environments, where ecological collapses can happen suddenly, leading to the unexpected extirpation of indigenous species. What species will we blame for the next catastrophic loss of native plants, bird and insects? Hunting is not an ecological management tool. There is nothing scientific about it. Let’s be honest and call it what it is: Killing For Sport. I am not opposed to a reduced deer population, but let’s be fair and remove some of the true culprits as well: cows, pigs, chicken, sheep and llama. And then we can restore the land.

Lastly, in most places, 95 percent of the land, public and often private is available for hunting. The parks are almost always the last sanctuaries. Now the hunters want to breach that? And after they get in, they are followed by timber industry (logging parks to “improve” forest health, et al.) When hunters are banned from private lands, it is usually because they act like slobs or engage in dangerous shooting practices.

Allison Lance

Friday Harbor, WA

 

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