Ignorance, arrogance feed Ashland's deer problem

I live in Ashland. My wife and I have a small garden here. We have regular deer raids, both inside and outside the "deer fence." Walking Lithia Park near our home we've seen as many as 17 deer. Thus I read the Tidings report on deer in Ashland (Sept. 21) with interest.

Most telling was the headline. "Residents ask mayor to curb deer problem." This reveals two facts about the current fuss over Ashland deer. 1) Human ignorance. 2) Human arrogance. Come to think of it, every environmental issue begins with human ignorance and arrogance, so Ashland's in fine company. The mayor has little power over the deer, I'd say. Deer fence Ashland? A less costly way: Change the actions of people involved in deer "confrontations."

Recently my wife and I were walking our dog along an Ashland sidewalk. Across the narrow street a woman and her dog were in a face-off with a doe. The woman, with her patient dog behind, was glowering at the doe. The angry doe stamped her front feet, shook her head. She wanted the lady to move. The lady wanted use of "her" sidewalk. It looked bad. I called across, asking the lady to come over to where we were. She shook her head. She was clearly angry. I told her the doe had a fawn nearby and was after the dog, a predator. The lady was unmoved. This deer had no right "…

I walked across the street, stood in front of the woman and faced the doe. Over my shoulder I yelled at the lady to get the hell across the street. Finally she retreated to the other side. She left, sputtering anger at me and the doe. After we moved away the doe ran down a driveway to check on her fawn.

We introduced Americans came here and planted tasty deer food. Roses. Tulips. Fruit trees. Photinia. Japanese maple. Yum. To protect our livestock, we killed most of the mountain lions. We still do. Grizzlies? Extinct. Wolves? Extirpated. We made ourselves alpha predator in the deer's world.

Mule deer are adaptable natives. When exotics turn up — human to rose bush — they check 'em out, make their assessments and change behavior to survive. That's their job. Hunters in the hills? Move into safer towns.

So ignorant, arrogant humankind needs to learn a few things about nature. 1) The deer are native to this place, we're not. 2) We entice them into town with edibles, safe haven and no fencing. 3) To a doe the dog is a dangerous predator. 4) There's an obvious pattern in deerdom. Does have fawns each year at a certain season. After that happens, the doe stashes the newborn somewhere safe and goes off to browse. If a known predator gets between doe and fawn, there's trouble. A doe has millions of years of evolution telling her to protect her fawn(s) at all costs. Telling her "shoo" while you block the sidewalk with your dog is folly. The doe wouldn't care about the dog if it weren't near her fawn. 5) Ashland magnifies this seasonal clash with its mindless crusade against dogs and dog walking. Dogs are banned anywhere except the remote off-leash dog park and city sidewalks and gutters. Thus dog-walker and deer confrontations are inevitable on sidewalks and streets in central Ashland. We never hear of deer problems on trails in the national forest. There, deer can maneuver safely.

Deer vs. dog is part of the natural world. In Ashland we aggravate the clash. Ashland is the worst place for dogs and their owners that I've ever been. I've lived in and visited tourist towns and cities on four continents, mostly densely populated. In civilized parts of the world dogs go to pubs, cafes, shops, ride public transport. My dog rode passenger class across hundreds of miles of European railroad. As any dog owner knows, that's sensible because most dogs are intimate members of the family. Dogs often behave better than the humans. No drunken vandalism, no drug-taking, no graffiti.

Let's loosen the idiotic restrictions on where dogs can go in Ashland. Bring back on-leash dog access to the fine Ashland city parks. More space means fewer dog-deer showdowns.

Worried about dog feces? Fine $1,000 for each failure to pick up. Hell, make it a capital crime after three offenses. For the owner, not the dog.

Let's educate the ignorant about fawns. Humans, stop pretending you own the sidewalk. A doe must get between the dog and the fawn or die trying. The human and dog can simply cross the street. The way we humans behave now I'll bet deer can't wait until we're extinct.

I still hope for sane, reasonable progress.

Harry Fuller lives in Ashland.

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