Dear Deer

Harry Drabik

My first go at public writing came in my early teens in a hit piece on Dwight Eisenhower. After that introduction a humanitarian instinct kept me quiet for half a dozen years until I felt need of new public humiliation with a short piece on feeding deer. All might have gone well and I may have gotten away with it if not for using the too-effective expression “bleary eyed Bambi lover” to describe the opposite side. At the time I was driving an aluminum body Land Rover that didn’t do well when 100 pounds of venison took a run at it. Having made deer-burger of two Bambi (a curious case where singular and plural can be the same) I felt justified castigating fellow humans for feeding deer nearby to Highway 61. I learned soon enough that a bleary eyed Bambi lover does not appreciate such notice; all the more, I suspected, based on its axxuracy. An elderly family acquaintance wouldn’t speak to me for years afterward. I don’t think she ever got over it, frankly. I’d insulted her passion. Doing so made me a lesser (perhaps even a despicable) being.

There are topics that sharply divide people along lines that are for me emotional rather than being reasoned out. How many times have I cautiously suggested managing deer through hunting wasn’t the worst policy only to be promptly confronted by a universal counter argument that “they were here first.” I’ve learned to avoid attempts at evidence or logic in such arguments. That an overpopulation of deer will suffer and starve is of no importance to a here-firster nor will pointing at giardia and roaches as being in line ahead of deer cause a moment of doubt. Deer were here first and that’s all some parties will admit into the argument.

Now going back to the bleary eyed assertion, I think I had that essentially right. Or if not right then the other side was familiar with deer who weren’t much like the ones I saw. I think a large dose of bleary eye is needed (nay required) to see deer as nice creatures deserving of loving care. In herds, not, I think, their prime form, they form gangs that have no issue bullying other groups for status or food. Deer butt, kick, and charge others as they act like doe-eye thugs. Whatever distinctions they follow forming groups it doesn’t appear based on embracing all deer. You know, too if one deer runs across a road there is a strong likelihood an unknown number of followers is apt to do the same. But will one, all, or none of them make the dash? Apparently deer groups need or want to stay together, but when a leader makes a safe crossing it is very likely setting up a follower or two for a trip to the final Bambi Land in the sky. Fewer deer in the group means less competition over food, but it’s not exactly a friendly habit to regularly lure your followers to possible death. In winter it’s difficult to tell at a glance whether the “leader” is a doe or a buck. During winter and out of their season deer seem to be somewhat transgender, but maybe by the leaders crossing a road first they provide natural selection by putting the undecided in the greatest peril. It’s likely that a great deal more is known about deer than I’m aware of. And I’d bet such information would be of constructive use in any discussion of how to go about managing wildlife. However, the larger bet is that both the save-em and hunt-em camps will be more focused on shutting each other up than on getting at info that might put a fondly held belief at risk.

I accept a risk of sounding like an old school marm by saying that the process of wanting people in general and students in particular to be in states of perpetual esteem has the same virtue as firster view of all Bambi kind in a state of noble harmony. The mechanics of how animals (of which we is one) go about the serious business of working out food, status, and reproduction is not all pretty and nice. In larger numbers and crowded survival competition for resources gives each animal a tougher lot and makes them more brutish. That’s how a plan of protective kindness can have a contrary result. Soothing thoughts and use of nice labels doesn’t necessarily make things better and might instead allow a sorry situation to go on longer than it should.

In a bold moment compare stances on managing deer with handling human groups of migrants. Imagine artificial situations and ask in the case of groups what the humane course might be. Is the welfare and integrity of a creature helped by putting it in a situation of more competition over limited resources? Little personal harm falls on me if deer overpopulate, live shorter more brutal lives, and devastate flora. Portions of forest and other animals might suffer, but why care if I can feel savior like having protected those sad doe eyes? Likewise sitting here not much harm comes my way advancing a cause of open immigration, but if I’m among the immigrants looking at an ever increasing wave of work and opportunity shortage I might think otherwise. If management falters because of flawed premises there is a price to pay. A US citizen is somewhat protected from exploitative abuse that is a normal part of undocumented people pushed into base survival mode. Kindness and generosity are valid not in gestures but in how those things are carried out.

The error of my “bleary eyed” smear was not so much in those words as it was in not having gone further to follow attention getting with information and understanding. If we hope to come to grips with issues it has to be with something much better than political positioning, Is our support or hatred of a figure more important than a broad and thoughtful exam of known fact? Without good reason behind is passion easily turns dangerous. Being opinionated is not, in fact, equal to being educated and informed.