The following is an email submitted by Ashley Pankratz to the GeneseeSun.com for publication. The attitudes and ideas expressed below should not be interpreted as the opinion of the GeneseeSun.com.
When the Village of Avon surveyed its 3,394 residents to assess public opinion on the presence of deer within village limits, only 351 responded—a strong indication that most are not bothered by the deer with whom they share their community. Nonetheless, Avon’s Deer Management Committee is proceeding with a plan to allow village hunting using bows, arrows, and bait stations.
Those who support village hunting are hunters themselves, or gardeners who can’t be bothered with deer-resistant landscaping; but many respondents expressed opposition due to safety concerns, or because they didn’t feel deer were a problem to begin with.
The committee, composed entirely of pro-hunt men of a certain age, is hardly representative of community interests. How ironic that the members of this ‘objective’ group, who have produced no evidence of a problem, are now the very individuals who will engage in the ‘unpleasant’ task of shooting the deer.
Grim though the hunting is promised to be, one can almost see the attraction: committee members will experience the thrill of nighttime hunting in their own village, complete with specialized lights on their bows. Though trophy-quality bucks may be ‘taken,’ Art Kirsch, who represents the DEC, claims that antlers will be confiscated, and reminds us that bucks shed antlers in late winter anyway—the latter being a moot point, when you consider that the Village of Trumansburg, whose annual killing serves as Avon’s eventual model, allows bowhunting from September through March; the former, a flimsy assurance at best.
Committee members/hunters prefer to say ‘harvest,’ but semantics don’t change the fact that semi-tame deer will be baited and shot. Some will be wounded, and not recovered. Trumansburg, which utilized only the most skilled volunteer archers, failed to recover 17 of 81 animals during its first year of ‘harvest.’ The committee assures us that they won’t kill all the deer; but since hunting creates ‘surplus population’ through a biological process known as compensatory rebound, killing some individuals creates only an illusion of progress, while gratifying hunters—year, after year, after year.
The prevention of Lyme disease and car accidents has become the committee’s predictable mantra, because it’s the kind of talk that scares people. Dr. Richard Ostfeld, who literally wrote the book on Lyme disease, along with researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, along with other scientists whose salaries aren’t dependent upon the sale of hunting licenses, have stated explicitly that deer neither carry nor transmit the disease. There are no peer-reviewed studies that correlate deer reduction with Lyme disease reduction. The number of deer-related motor vehicle accidents in the village is low, but could increase with a 7-month bow season. Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, saw an 80 percent increase in deer-related accidents after implementing their 2016 cull, whereas Rochester Hills, Michigan, reduced accidents by 40 percent using non-lethal methods.
The committee attempts to garner further support by suggesting that venison will be given to the needy; but, since game meat is susceptible to environmental degradation, temperature abuse, bacterial contamination, and is not USDA-sourced or inspected, do we really expect gratitude? Hunters might choose the inherent risks of consumption, but the most vulnerable individuals cannot. It is morally despicable that a veneer of altruism could make any of us feel better about the village-sanctioned, recreational killing of animals who are every bit as sentient as our dogs or cats; or, for that matter, ourselves.
At a time when we are profoundly disconnected from the natural world, there is need for a humane, sensible approach toward wild lives. If there are real hunters left—those who hunt on a purely subsistence level—they are not members of Avon’s Deer Management Committee. Such a hunter would cringe at the notion of suburban backyard bait-station killing sold as necessity to an unsuspecting public. Even as we humans drive numerous species to the brink of extinction, it becomes clear that some animals, such as deer, are here to stay. The more noble task of wildlife management, then, is to manage not the animals, but the humans who interact with them.