From the July 5, 2001 edition of East Hampton Star. Reprinted with permission of the author.
First, Kill all the deer
Dear Star readers,
An immodest proposal.
What if there were **NO** deer. What if we wiped them all out? Destroyed them. Disappeared them. Obliterated them. What if we declared ourselves a deer-free community and worked to make that dream come true?
Can you think of ANY negatives? Would the complete elimination of deer have any deleterious ecological impact?
This is a serious question. So far I don't have an answer.
I repeat: if there were no deer, what would be the negative ecological effect?
I think of deer as one of the five plagues currently tormenting the East End, along with Gypsy moths, ticks, money, and humans.
Gypsy moth plagues come every 18 years or so. We spend most of our political energy struggling with the money and the humans. But if we wipe out the deer, we get rid of the ticks, too. We're down to three plagues--and one of them only comes around every 18 years!
And this is doable! We can beat the deer! All it takes is a few good men with rifles or bows. So easy, compared to the gypsy moths! (Or the humans or the money.)
North Haven has had considerable success during the last few years with a very limited program.
We can do better.
Does this plan upset you? It has always been my contention that animal rights activists have no feeling for plants. Joan Lee Faust pointed out in the New York Times several months ago that the deer plague was destroying the forest understory, forever altering our native environment. I myself have had to build exclosures to protect my two remaining Lady Slipper orchids. (Deer have a special fondness for them).
You can respond that there aren't too many deer, there are too many people. I wouldn't disagree, but I don't think any of us would support an open season on people. Not just yet. Let's eliminate the deer first. Then we'll see where we go from there.
It is interesting to note that the only deer predator that remains in our area is ... us. And that the only reason we haven't wiped out these greedy, destructive, ecomaniacal creatures is that they are so ... cute. Can you think of another instance in nature where an animal's defense is based on Disney doe eyes and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings big ears?
Yours for a cute deer-free world,