Monday, November 29, 2021

Deer Management

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Wildlife, Biodiversity, Nature, Society, Culture, Sustainability

--Writing about nature protection, environmental lawyer Holly Doremus once wrote. "(We assume) that nature can be allowed to function without reserves, while humans can be allowed to function ithout concern for nature outside them."--from Brooke Jarvis, The New Yorker, November 15, 2021 

Staten Island, New York is home to a large and very "happy," resident population of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). The deer are thriving--food aplenty, no predators, no hunting. In the Wiki entry on this New York City borough, the white-tailed deer population "increased from a population of 24 in 2008 to 2,000 in 2017." 

Staten Island has become contested territory, now one of the many "'deer wars,' vitriolic disagreements among hunters, environmentalists, animal-rights activists, and suburbanites over how to manage deer populations."

A project aims to sterilize 98% if the male deer on the island and it is the subject of an article in The New Yorker by Brooke Jarvis.  (est. 20-minute plus read)

This article digs into the issue and includes some history of humans and those animals that do well with us (called synanthropes), Staten Island's past, the deer's history in the United States, attitudes toward deer, the question of numbers, e.g., how many is the right number which is the wrong question, deer behavioral patterns on the island, the fluidity of boundaries (imagined) between "our"and "their" world, the utter complexity of the conflicts, what we mean by 'nature', and the sterilization campaign.

Animals that thrive with us "sometimes lead us to odd and inconsistent places" and  to often contradictory personal and social decisions. So the question is what to do with them when they do too well.

Brooke Jarvis talked with Allen Rutberg of Tufts' Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine who is a veteran of a similar deer management issue/problem. What he said seems to be a maxim among wildlife managers.  who observed what seems a maxim among wildlife managers. which has been written and said many times. It had to do with the role of biology in the decisions managers face and try to resolve. The biology and ecology of the situation is a mighty small part. "'The  rest is sorting out why people believe what they do."

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