Who will care for the deer?

A foggy morning on the mountain, watching cars go by.My column writing career officially began in 1974, on Adak Island, in the middle of the Aleutian Chain about four hours from Anchorage in a fairly fast turboprop aircraft.

I wrote about mostly outdoorsy issues and about wandering around the tundra in the company of a Bald Eagle named J Edgar, who in turn got his name from one of my favorite Mason Williams ballads. J Edgar and I lived in a hollow log on the back side of the island, which was a puzzlement to many readers because there were no trees large enough to be hollow to be found on the island.

In point of fact, the only trees were some 20 evergreens that had been planted just outside of town sometime in the 1950s, probably by some Navy guys who were lonesome for the green, green pine needles of home. (I was there 1974-1976, when some miscreant decided to cut down the trees. I don’t know whether he, or she, was ever caught, but the trees were replaced a few years later.)

We wandered around the tundra, checked on survival shelters left over from World War II, and recorded human efforts to control the size of the caribou herd. I wrote down what we had seen, and once a week J Edgar would carry my written ramblings to town.

It wasn’t a large herd, a few hundred animals. The ’bou’s only enemies on Adak Island were a relative handful of human hunters. On the mainland, their natural predators would have been Arctic Wolves, but there were no wolves on the island. Also, there were no highways full of speeding vehicles to help thin the caribou herd. It was strictly up to humans to ensure the herd would not either under-populate and become, on Adak, extinct – or over-populate, which leads to starvation and disease.

Mother nature seems cruel sometimes, and she doesn’t concern herself with how things look. Turkey vultures gotta eat, too.

All of which, a thread on Facebook this week brought to mind. Several people wondered who is responsible for picking up the dead deer lying alongside the roads. I have not researched who exactly receives the call but I know it could be, depending on jurisdiction, local police, the animal pound, or a variety of other persons designated or allowed by law.

A significant part of the problem would be the state not selling as many licenses, which means one of the Whitetail’s primary predators – humans – are in decreasing supply. In about 2010, urban dwellers officially outnumbered rural dwellers. Increasing numbers of them spend little time in the woods and do not approve of shooting “Bambi.” Comedian Trevor Noah recently referred to a giant bovine in New Zealand as “the cow … he;” a cow is a female, Trevor.

More and more of those new urban dwellers are giving up eating meat at all. While I’m proud of my granddaughter for deciding to go vegan, she is going to have to assume some of the responsibility for replacing the habitat being lost as we turn hay and corn fields into places for humans to live and work.

In 1990, the state sold more than two million hunting licenses. That number has fallen to well below a million licenses. For 2018-2019 season the state increased by 34,000 the number of antlerless (doe) licenses available to would-be hunters.

Hunting license money pays for state Game Commission officers and efforts. Maybe we need to consider a way for non-hunters to buy non-hunting licenses to help support the efforts to keep from killing deer and leaving them beside the road for the vultures.

Someone has to care for the deer.

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