School daze: Deer cull halted

The bunny huggers are at it again. It seems Binghamton University, located not in Binghamton but here in Vestal (Broome County), has a deer problem. The deer apparently have found the university's nature preserve much to their liking and, as deer are apt to do, reproduced to the point where there are way too many of them. As a result, they're eating just about anything they can reach, including much, if not all, of the understory in the preserve. Because the deer are consuming many of the wildflower species and shrubs found there, many bird species that nest near or on the ground have disappeared from the preserve.

It's estimated the deer density in the preserve is as high as 70-80 per square mile and that, of course, is becoming intolerable. After seeing firsthand what the deer were doing to the flora in the preserve, a committee made up of faculty, staff and students recommended a plan to cull the deer and save what was left of the nature preserve. The committee didn't want to completely eliminate deer from the preserve; they sought only to reduce deer numbers to a level that would allow the forest to recover.

The idea was to kill about 90 percent of the deer population when the majority of students were on a four-week winter break. To accomplish this, the university decided to hire an organization called White Buffalo and have a group of its "sharpshooters" thin out the burgeoning deer population in the preserve. The sharpshooters would use .223 caliber rifles and shoot the deer over bait at night. The shots taken would be close, 10 yards or so, for safety's sake. The meat would be donated to charity so the nature center as well as our local food banks would benefit.

At the time, all this seemed like a reasonable idea and the university went ahead with its culling plan. But wait! Suddenly, a downstate lawyer filed suit on behalf of a university professor whose property adjoins the preserve to stop the culling process. The lawyer said fawns accompanying does would see their mothers shot in the head and this, he felt, would be too tragic an event for the little fawn to deal with. Incredibly, a judge has just agreed to halt the process. According to the judge, "the university failed to comply with the State Environmental Quality Review Act that could require the filing of an environmental impact statement and public hearings."

As they say, the plot thickens because now the university's hands are tied and it's feared this delay will give those naïve individuals who think the solution lies in deer birth control or relocating the deer to another area time to better organize their opposition. .

Most deer hunters understand the concept of carrying capacity which, simply put, is the ability of a tract of land to support a given species – in this case deer. If the population exceeds the carrying capacity of the land the excess animals die, usually by starvation, and it's the fawns who starve first because they are pushed aside by the larger deer in order to get at what little food may be available. Survival of the fittest is a concept that seems to be poorly understood by those trying to stop the culling process. Managing a deer population by birth control doesn't work; relocating them to another area doesn't work. But shooting them does and this apparently is a fact lost on those opposing the culling process and calling it a "bloodbath." It appears the inmates have taken over the asylum and in the meantime the deer happily munch away at what's left of the preserve. I can't wait to see what happens next.


Categories: New York – Mike Raykovicz, Whitetail Deer

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