Hello again from Sarah Graves, thinking today about innocent woodland creatures. Who belong, you should excuse my saying so, in the woods. Or if they eat up, befoul, and generally infest Eastport for very much longer, on my plate.
But we are being swarmed by deer, here. Squads of them patrol the streets. The other night I watched half a dozen of them nearly getting hit broadside by a car barreling up the hill from the Happy Landings bar and grill. The night before as I walked the dog, one materialized out of the darkness at me, not a bit shy. She wanted a carrot; demanded one, even.
Because that’s the other thing about them: they’re not just hungry, and vermin-infested, and a traffic hazard. They’re tame, and way too numerous for what is a small but nevertheless fully functioning city, with sidewalks and streetlamps and so on. Why, you can get right up close to a group of half a dozen or so — but I advise no closer than about six feet, because that’s how far a flea can jump and ticks, I’ve heard, can teleport themselves right into your ear canal.
And don’t even get me started on what deer do to the gardens. Tulips chewed to the ground, blueberry bushes pruned to within a centimeter of their lives, hostas munched and sedum crunched and if you planned a vegetable garden this year, forget it. There are sprays that are supposed to repel them, so smelly I have to wear a respirator meant to filter out poison gas to apply them, but I’m pretty sure the deer just think it’s vinegar-and-oil for their salad. We use other methods, too: Irish Spring soap shavings in mesh bags, essence of coyote or wolf, motion-activated water sprays, invisible fences made of clear fishing line whose unexpected touch is supposed to startle them and send them fleeing.
I think those deer like being startled. To them, it’s a form of dinner theater. A cool shower is always nice, and the only spray that really works on them is a spray of bullets.
But! Do you know what it takes to get a deer-herd reduction operation going? I mean even after you get past the Bambi factor? In the latest issue of The Working Waterfront, Sandy Oliver reports on how Islesboro is going about it, and details just how difficult and complex, not to mention expensive, it can be.
For one thing, the State of Maine owns all the deer so first a municipality has to get state permission for a special hunt. Then a plan for the hunt has to be approved by the citizens (good luck). The landowners have to give permission, and each owner can say what weapons are okay to use on his or her land. Arrangement for butchering and storage must be made. Safety concerns must be addressed. Not that any of this is unnecessary, but it’s all a huge undertaking.
And…it’s sad. Hey, even without the Bambi factor, I’m talking about a lot of animals who didn’t ask to be where they are, have no idea of the havoc they’re wreaking, and don’t “deserve” to be at the wrong end of a shotgun or crossbow, or on my dinner menu.
So I have a different idea. These creatures are owned by the State of Maine, right? So really, they’re just like a herd of somebody else’s cows. But now they’re grazing in our gardens, “fertilizing” our yards, and wandering around on the runway of our local airport, for pete’s sake. It seems only right that the owner of these animals should…
That’s right. Come and get them. Other parts of the state have a deer shortage, I hear, instead of the zillions of them that we enjoy. So instead of us shooting them (about which I shudder to think, actually: shades of Elmer Fudd) I hereby request that the State of Maine come and tranquilize the animals, load them onto comfy transport with helpful veterinarians and Department of Inland Fish and Wildlife staff, and take them to places where the air is clear, the food and cover are plentiful, and the future looks bright at least until next hunting season.
Otherwise, we’re going to have to start advertising for the deer-ish equivalent of the Pied Piper, because I just looked out the window and saw someone looking in. Reading over my shoulder, in fact, and from the expression on his face I’m pretty sure he doesn’t like what I’m writing.
And he has antlers.