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POLITICS AND WHITE-TAILED DEER MANAGEMENT: YEP, THERE IS A CONNECTION

Here we are deep into political season 2020.  But you knew that.

Every four years, in autumn, the U.S. presidential campaign in in its final phase.

Every four years, the first Tuesday in November is presidential election day.

And every four years in autumn – and every other year as well – in ohDEER territory (the region where ohDEER does business: across all of central through eastern Massachusetts, including Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket; the east side of Long Island, NY; and central New Jersey) is white-tailed deer mating season, also called “the rut.”

The rut starts heating up, so to speak, in mid October and will continue into its peak, which is the first three weeks in November, and extend until early December.

It is also important to note that within this time period, cold weather increases in deer the biological mating urge and impulse and activity – whereas warm weather has the opposite effect.

But, for sure, no matter the temperature, a good portion of the fall is one of deer emotion and hormones all aflame.  Which is kind of like what is going on with politics and the presidential campaign in the U.S. presently.

Extending the parallel of the power of elections and mating, deer and politics occupy and share a sphere and unhappily rub shoulders with each other.

Like in the immensely important area of deer population management – a term describing programs to keep deer populations healthy – with neither too many nor too few deer.

Humans never cease to remove and build on and over nature. This building and paving over results in deer increasingly occupying ‘the edge” – that is woods wringing and bisecting and bordering places where people live and work.   In many regions of the country, deer are making this migration while at the same time their numbers are booming.

Too many deer create problems:  destruction of human habitat in the form of deer chewing on and making snacks and meals of the shrubs, trees, groundcover, and flowers in yards and places of business; males (bucks) damaging trees with antler and shoulder rubbing (part of the mating process); and deer transporting disease-carrying ticks (which attach themselves to deer and siphon off deer blood).

To bring deer numbers down, a primary form of management is strategic and planned hunting performed by licensed hunters.

Yet if hunts are not properly controlled and properly limited, deer populations are reduced too drastically.

To do deer management right – indeed, to do all wildlife management right – it is critical that hunters, biologists, and other wildlife experts, those most knowledgeable about the animals and their behavior and habitat, take the lead and have strong input in the planning, decision-making, and orchestration.

Legislators, government officials, and special interest groups also play an important and required role in wildlife management.    Increasingly, however, and this has been going on for several years now, these groups are performing an outsized role in devising, setting, and carrying out policy.

Yes, it has all become quite political.   And, of course, just like many movements and sectors and aspects of life that have become big-time political, wildlife management didn’t start out that way.

It was in the 1860s when hunters and outdoor enthusiasts in the U.S. and Canada joined to draft and create a set of principles and tenets intended to preserve wildlife species and natural environments for all generations to come.  This effort was a response to overfishing and overhunting, and overbuilding and other manners of the destruction of wildlife habitat.

The principles and tenets became known as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, which is not an official organization, and has no legal powers, yet which serves as guidance for policies enacted by many conservation and sportsmen groups, and also many states and local jurisdictions.

It is a widely-held concern though that wildlife management policy in the U.S. is straying from the prescriptions of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, with consequences that aren’t good for wildlife, the environment, or people.

An example is that in some areas of the country, in pursuit of keeping deer populations under control, state and local lawmakers and policymakers have established hunts that aren’t properly regulated and properly scheduled, which has resulted in too many deer harvested in too narrow a time frame.

ohDEER recommends an article, titled, “The Dirty Politics of Deer Management,” published in Field & Stream on January 8, 2014.  Author of the story is Scott Bestul.

Here are the first two paragraphs of the article:

“One of the seven tenets of the North American Model of Conservation is that wildlife policy should be dictated by science, and hunters are the principal tool biologists use to manage deer. This is what my Wildlife Management 101 professor called the happy triangle: trained biologists, whitetails, and sportsmen.

“In the real world, it’s more like a dysfunctional decahedron, with special-interest groups, lobbyists, legislators, governors, biologists, and factions of hunters all pulling in odd directions, often behind closed doors. At the ground level, it’s a messy, sometimes dirty business where money, power, and influence can matter as much as or more than what biologists prescribe, what hunters want, or what’s best for the deer.”

ohDEER understands politics play a role in just about every area of our lives.  Can’t get around or away from it.

We als0 believe that “wildlife policy should be dictated by science.”

Perhaps the best we can hope for in managing white-tailed deer populations, and any other population of wildlife, is to keep a tight harness on the politics, and be consistently vigilant and consistently work to check and limit their influence.