Bowhunting deer 'particularly abhorrent'
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Bowhunting deer 'particularly abhorrent'

View by Croton-on-Hudson Veterinarian, The Journal News
November 8, 2014

As a resident of the West End of the Town of New Castle for almost 20 years and a member of Teatown Lake Reservation for 10 years, I was very disheartened to learn of the deer hunt underway using sharpshooter hunters to thin the deer herd. As a veterinarian I am deeply disappointed by the board's decision to use bow hunters to accomplish the task and to use baiting to draw the maximum number of deer into the sites of these hunters.

I understand the burden that the ever-expanding deer population in the Northeast is putting on the old-growth forests they inhabit. Deer browse causes thinning and loss of indigenous plant species which ultimately culminates in replacement by invasive species. Other animals and plants sharing the same forest home suffer from the pressures these changes place on them. Ultimately, the deer herd itself will experience increased mortality once the carrying capacity of the land has become irreparably damaged. I presume the administrative board of Teatown has done its due diligence in determining that there has been significant damage to the land, that it is the deer herd that is responsible for that damage and that a deer kill will remedy the situation.

Of the choices available to Teatown to control their deer numbers, I find the decision to use bow hunters particularly abhorrent. A deer struck by an arrow fired from a bow will experience pain and suffering. This is true regardless of what part of the deer's body is penetrated by the arrow. Upon entry the arrow will pierce skin, subcutaneous tissue, muscle and blood vessels. A deer's chest and abdominal cavities are lined with abundant nerve endings. Only if the arrow penetrates the heart will it bring about immediate death and cessation of the animal's pain. A deer struck by an arrow will experience an immediate adrenaline rush and a flight response. The archer is obligated to track the deer to its final point of collapse. If not dead at that point, then the deer must be killed at close range, presumably with another arrow. This description is something I have observed personally. Approximately 12 years ago, my wife, young son and I came upon a deer wounded by an arrow at the conclusion of our hike in the springs area of Long Island. The deer had collapsed at the back of a building near the trail head and an arrow was protruding from the animal's chest. The animal was struggling for breath and its gums were pale and its eyes were wide with fright. No hunter was in sight and it was not clear how long the deer had been there. The deer was dying and only a quick solution would end its suffering. Local police were summoned and the deer was dispatched with the officer's revolver.

As an institution charged with stewardship of the land and environmental education Teatown Lake Reservation has an obligation to minimize animal suffering in the process of their deer reduction program. As a veterinarian, I feel it is important to ensure that all those in the position to make the decision to continue the deer kill are fully informed of the implications of the method of kill. At the very least, consideration of animal suffering should factor into the equation.

The writer is a veterinarian in Croton-on-Hudson.

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