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Ready, Willis and Able – Population of deer is 'edgy' situation (Sept. 16, 2015 issue)

When Leo and I moved to our subdivision in the late 1980s, deer sightings were occasional, not an everyday affair. I was excited whenever I spotted the little Bambi’s with their mother. Deer are beautiful creatures. And I’ll admit I still get excited when I see the baby deer. But as the saying goes, sometimes you can get too much of a good thing. Female whitetail deer usually have twins. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that we now see up to 20 deer at a time in the cleared areas in our subdivision in Unicoi. Herds of 10 or more cross our yard on a regular basis. And they don’t skitter away as fast as they used to. In fact, they stand and look at us as if they are questioning why we are on their turf. Last year they ate an entire patch of blue lake beans we planted. This year they even hit the tomato vines after eating every hosta on the place.
Several Internet websites have disturbing statistics and insights on the suburban deer situation in this country. It seems that subdivisions with their cleared areas backed up by wooded areas provide the ideal habitat for deer. This combination of cleared space and woods creates what is known as an “edge habitat,” which those adorable but pesky deer love and in which they flourish. Here are some “deer” statistics from the website koryoswrites.com, which indicate just how well the whitetails are flourishing. In 1930, the deer population was about 300,000. Today it ranges as high as 30 million. And it doubles every other year under good conditions. This is because of the decrease or demise of deer predators such as wolves, cougars, and the grizzly bear as well as the fact that the number of deer being killed by human hunters is going down – well maybe not in Unicoi County – but elsewhere it is. And with mama whitetail usually having twins, the family is going to grow.
Other websites noted that deer cause billions of dollars in damage to agricultural crops and landscaping. And deer are taking their toll on prairies as well as woodlands. It is estimated that deer eat 15 million tons of vegetation each year, which costs about $248,000,000 in damage to crops and landscapes in the northeastern part of our country alone. I couldn’t find statistics for the southeast where we live. But I did read that studies have found that in Pennsylvania over half of all plant species diversity has vanished because of hungry deer. This also affects other animal species, which feed on the now vanishing vegetation. Other statistics also indicate that vehicle/deer collisions are responsible for over 100 human deaths each year.
Deer are even wandering into our ever prevalent shopping centers. One ran into the glass entry of a Target in Connecticut. And so it goes for life on the edge.