Guest Opinion: Getting a grip on our deer infestation

By John Fisher-Smith

Thank you for John Darling's July 26 cover story, "Deer Prudence: New state law will allow cities to cull urban herds, but idea is DOA in Ashland”

Ashland’s overpopulation of deer is a nationwide issue and a direct result of the "war on predators" declared in 1915 when Congress appropriated money for the biological survey which led to the slaughter of thousands of top predators like wolves, coyotes and mountain lions.

With top predators reduced in number, nature's ecological balance was upended, resulting in an ongoing explosion of deer population. The remedy, if there is one, is to bring back the predators, but meanwhile, herds within cities like Ashland must be culled for the safety of the human population and pets and in defense of people's beloved gardens.

When hunting is permitted in surrounding wildlands it’s only natural for deer to seek refuge inside towns like Ashland. As deer are allowed to settle and multiply inside the city, the top predators like mountain lions will be lured inside city boundaries.

Aldo Leopold’s seminal 1944 essay "Thinking Like a Mountain” might be seen as the trigger that eventually led to bringing back the wolf packs in Oregon and elsewhere. Leopold closes his essay with a caution “... but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run. Perhaps this is behind Thoreau's dictum: In wildness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, long known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men.”

Personally, I long to hear again the howl of wolf sound or coyote wafting in my bedroom window. I'm in favor of lawfully culling the urban deer herd to feed the hungry. I’d like an end to the ruining of people's gardens while they sleep. And while riding my bicycle home on a rainy night I'd like an end to the risk of running headlong into a half-blind deer, while straining my eyes in the dark to see the glint on its horns.

— John Fisher-Smith lives in Ashland.


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