Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Taking Back The Streets

Animals have always had difficulty with new technologies, but they get used to them. They may even learn to coexist peacefully. My father, who was born in the early 1920s, told me that when he was a boy, dogs were terrified of automobiles and ran away when a car approached. This was an astonishing revelation to me, since I was used to a world where the cars ran faster, dogs habitually chased cars, and if they got inside of one, they enjoyed the ride with their heads sticking out of open windows. Wildlife, on the other hand, has a much harder time making the adjustment. Development of human housing, infrastructure, etc. long ago drove the wild creatures away from what we call civilization, but what they call "there goes the neighborhood". They are making a comeback, however, as seen in last month's Attack of the Potentially Lethal Turkeys. More animals are returning to humanity's habitats (not to be confused with Habitat for Humanity.)

Oh, deer. Oh deer, oh deer, oh deer. Bambi is back, and he's out for revenge.

In the suburban community where I grew up, it was not unusual to see a deer on a quiet weekend morning. With no school bus traffic, no 9-to-5ers heading out into the world, and just about everyone sleeping in, the deer would wander into the back yards and sometimes even the front yards before retreating into the woods at the first sign of a humanoid life form. They never seemed to make it into the city very often, with a few rare appearances in woodier areas. Now they are back, they are taking over, and they are not alone.

Once well-hidden by the thick woods of the city's numerous parks and hillsides, deer and other wildlife -- opossum, hawks, raccoons and especially turkey -- are now regularly seen.
Perfect! Now if only we can lure the Clampetts here from Beverly Hills with all of their oil money to stimulate the local economy. Jethro will never go hungry again! While we are waiting for Jed to move away from there, let's find out why the city is suddenly teeming with so much wildlife.
"We've got a situation in which lots of young deer are being born and very few are being killed off," said Gary Fujak, one of two state game officers who cover Pittsburgh.

"The deer have adapted quite well to living with man. They've learned that, for the most part, we'll not only leave them alone, we'll set the dinner table for them," he said.

Captain! The antlered Borg have adapted! Our shields are no longer working!
Last year, the city picked up 140 deer carcasses -- most struck by vehicles -- from streets in nearly every city neighborhood. So far this year, 30 dead deer have been removed.
The article does not say what the city does with the dead deer, but I would suggest that free fresh venison might help ease the cost of maintaining the county jail by lowering the food budget. But the city needs something more reliable than roadkills to control the deer menace. How about an urban deer shoot? Is that legal?
State game officials said hunting is permitted in the city using a shotgun loaded with slugs, a muzzleloader, a flintlock, bow and arrow, or a crossbow.

Hunting is restricted to private property with the permission of the landowner and must be done no closer than 150 yards from an occupied home unless permission is granted. Archers can hunt within 50 yards of an occupied home.

In addition to encouraging more "regular hunting" in an area, deer population can be thinned through controlled hunts or calling in hunters from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's wildlife-services division.

"There is no magic wand to solve the problem caused by deer," Schake said. "Hunting has to be part of the equation to control the population."

Just what we need -- hordes of armed government agents stalking the city streets. That's great. They'll corner all of the critters in one wooden enclave and turn it into a regular Waco. Please, guys, give the private sector a chance to screw this up before you come in and make it worse.

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