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CASH Courier > 2005 Fall Issue

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The C.A.S.H. Courier

ARTICLE from the Fall 2005 Issue

C.A.S.H. MEMBER TELLS IT LIKE IT IS… URBAN/SUBURBAN DEER MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES

BY GEORGE NAGLE

To the Pennsylvania Game Commission:

I’m responding to your request for public input for urban/suburban deer management strategies.

The only safe and acceptable solution for urban/suburban deer management is the combination of a co-existence education program informing concerned citizens of successful non-lethal deer deterrents, and the implementation of a PZP reproductive control program.

I’m a former hunter and long-term suburban homeowner.

Based on a survey that I did in my community, which I believe is representative of other suburban communities with deer, the vast majority of suburbanites don’t feel there is a deer problem.

They would rather see a deer in their back yard than a hunter dressed in full battle fatigues, and armed with lethal weapons. They are far more concerned about the safety of their children and companion animals than their azaleas. In addition, they have no problem with planting flowers that are deer resistant and/or using repellents to deter deer from browsing.

They do not want their quiet and safe community turned into a hunting preserve.

SAFETY CONCERNS

Below is a summary of safety concerns expressed by homeowners in my community, and are focused on bowhunting.

The safety concerns of hunting with firearms in a densely populated urban/suburban neighborhood are obvious.

* We feel that our children, family members and companion animals will be put in extreme danger by the bowhunters, and the lethal arrows they will be discharging in our community. We will be afraid to let our children play in our back yards and wooded areas, and we will be afraid to walk our dogs, or take recreational walks through the beautiful wooded areas that we now enjoy.

* The razor-sharp broadhead arrows that are not retrieved will become dangerous booby traps for our children playing in the wooded areas after hunting season.

* An injured, panicked deer can run a very long distance, and up to 40 miles an hour from the point at which it is struck by an arrow to the time it falls down to die, with the potential to run in front of a moving vehicle, in front of children playing in the yard, through a plate glass window, etc. If this occurs, the injured deer itself becomes a lethal weapon that threatens the safety of our entire family.

* We do not want our children or other family members traumatized by seeing wounded deer dying in our back yards.

* Based on state-wide statistics and statistics from other local communities that have allowed hunting into their communities, deer/vehicle accidents have increased dramatically, because injured and panicked deer scatter from the killing area and run blindly out into the highways. The Erie Insurance Company noted that the number of deer/car collisions rose nearly five times on the first day of buck season and doe season. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration also stated that most deer/car collisions happen during hunting season. With this dramatic increase in deer/ vehicle collisions, someone will eventually get injured or worse.

* The 50-yard safety zone is a serious accident waiting to happen. Why until just recently was there a 150 yards safety zone throughout the state, but a 50-yard safety zone in the more densely populated urban/suburban areas? In addition, if the safety zone is 150 yards around school playgrounds, nursery schools and day-care centers, why is it only 50 yards around urban/suburban homes with children playing in the yard? We agree with the Fox Chapel Police Chief, John Streeter, who “disagrees totally with the 50-yard rule because it is just too close.”

PGC LIABILITY ISSUES

* If the PGC supercedes existing borough/township ordinances disallowing the discharge of firearms, bows and hunting, which were passed for the protection and safety of it’s residents, then the PGC should be legally liable for any property damage, bodily injury and/or deaths resulting from hunting in these communities.

* Because the urban/suburban areas are densely populated, and have children playing in their yards and the surrounding wooded areas, we feel that the PGC should pass a special statute requiring private property owners to inform municipal officials and their neighbors if they intend to use lethal weapons to hunt and/or invite hunters on their property. We believe that neighbors should be given written notice, and that these properties should be made public, so that the surrounding residents can take appropriate safety precautions. If the PGC doesn’t address this serious safety issue, we believe that the PGC should be legally liable for any resulting property damage, bodily injury and/or deaths.

BOWHUNTING IS INHUMANE

Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of The Humane Society of the United States said, “We believe bowhunting is both ineffective and inhumane, and we strongly oppose its use as an urban deer management tool. Numerous studies reveal that for every animal struck and killed by a broadhead arrow, there is one animal struck and unretrieved for a wounding loss of 50 percent.”

Thus, for every deer successfully killed, at least one deer is left wounded to die after prolonged agony from septic infection, peritonitis, blood loss or other complications.

These wounded deer will be dying in our back yards traumatizing our children and other family members.

LONG-TERM SOLUTIONS TO URBAN/SUBURBAN DEER MANAGEMENT

* The growing population of deer in the urban/suburban areas is a direct result of years of serious mis-management by the PGC.

* The PGC has to stop spending millions of dollars annually improving habitat and food sources which maximizes deer reproduction and population growth for its hunter constituents.

* The PGC has to address the human-sprawl problem - a form of forest fragmentation that produces enormous deer food supplies which is another cause of deer population increases.

* The “Pennsylvania Game Commission” has to be transformed from a hunter-centered organization focused on hunter interests (a single-digit and steadily shrinking minority), into a more balanced “Wildlife Management Organization” whose focus is to manage our state’s wildlife with respect and for the health of the species, and enjoyment of all Pennsylvanians.

* In order to be impartial, the financing of this new Wildlife Management Organization must be independent of hunters or of any other single group.

We want to work with the PGC to safely address perceived and real deer/human conflicts, but we are concerned that the PGC is not going to be guided by resident’s safety concerns, but by hunters and the hunters’ organizations which are the primary funding source of the PGC. The hunters want to hunt in our backyards, and we’re afraid that the PGC is going to let them. ”Nowhere is the domination of state wildlife agencies by hunting interests shown more clearly than in those agencies’ responses to suburban deer controversies. Representatives of wildlife agencies from Connecticut to Georgia and from New Jersey to Minnesota have been enticing trusting suburbanites with promises that bow hunts will offer quick, safe, and inexpensive solutions to their deer problems. At the same time, the agencies block, obstruct, and stall any effort to develop or apply nonlethal solutions to wildlife populations control.”

Allen Rutberg, Ph.D., HSUS News

I believe the main reason that hunters want access to the urban/ suburban areas is for trophy kills. There are some healthy mature bucks with nice racks in the urban/suburban areas, and the hunters want access to them. Pennsylvania hunters kill over 85 percent of the bucks (mostly yearlings) annually, and less than one percent survive beyond 3 1/2 years of age. No other state kills a higher percentage of bucks (up to 90 percent in some areas) than we do. As a result, hunters can’t find bucks that have lived long enough to have grown well developed racks outside of the urban/suburban areas.

That being said, we don’t want the PGC putting our children in harm’s way so that it’s hunter constituents can get their trophy kills.

Deer are sentient animals that can experience pain, pleasure, suffering and enjoyment, and have a potential life span of 11 to 12 years in the wild – a maximum life span of 20 years. The above buck mortality statistics show that the PGC is not managing our officially recognized “State Animal” with respect as living and feeling animals, i.e. giving them an opportunity to enjoy a reasonable life span, but are manipulating deer populations as nothing more than commerce for the state and for personal financial interests, in exchange for providing killing recreation and trophy hunting.

This scenario is morally obscene and must change.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss my input, and/or if you would like contact names of PZP experts who can work with you to develop a PZP program for safe urban/suburban deer management.

George Nagle is a Pennsylvania resident and has followed the workings of wildlife management for over 15 years.

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