I just heard about this assistant professor of physics at the University of Cincinnati who seems to be of the opinion that humans are not responsible for deer breeding like rabbits, and should not be taking the role of apex predators as a result of it:
“We as humans have done so much damage to this earth and every aspect of nature. We are so overpopulated, so is the solution just to kill some of us? We created the problem to begin with and the deer have to pay the price for it?”
I don’t know what’s scarier–the fact that urbanites constitute the majority of the modern U.S. population and this sort of attitude is typical of metropolitan folk who don’t understand the food chain, or that a person with a professorship, who is in a better-than-average position to influence the next generation, chooses to promote such a naive and unhealthy stance.
So many species have gone extinct in the last century from the actions of humanity, that it’s natural to assume that all species suffer for mankind encroaching on native habitats. What Prof. “Don’t-Kill-the-Deer” doesn’t realize is that some species actually benefit from human encroachment, and the white-tailed deer is one of them.
The PBS Nature episode, The Private Life of Deer, reveals that deer thrive on the fringes, between the deep woods and the grasslands. And mankind has made a lot of fringes. Additionally, man has removed the predators from many of these environs, allowing the deer to feast without fear. Far from endangering the deer, human encroachment has caused the the American deer population to explode, from about one million a century ago to around 30 million today.
And for all the wrecked cars and shop windows (like the young buck that jumped into the lobby of our local Perkins), it’s not homo sapiens that suffers, but the many plant species the deer eat. If they have to keep stopping and watching for predators, they tend to move around more, only taking a few mouthfuls from any given spot. If they know there aren’t predators around, they quickly overgraze the area, devastating plant species.
This was made obvious when they began to reintroduce wolves to Yellowstone. Aspen had ceased reproducing when the gray wolves were eradicated. it turned out, elk were eating them all. When wolves were reintroduced, Aspen recovered, as did many other species, such as the beaver.
Thriving ecosystems need apex predators. When mankind drives out the existing predators and abdicates the position of being one, the entire ecosystem suffers.
I’d send Prof. “Don’t-Kill-the-Deer” a copy of “Dear Diary” (It’s been around for decades, I’ve seen it in Wisconsin and Upstate New York versions), but I’m sure irate Cincinnati folks a lot faster on the draw and better at the web-dance of information finding have found and filled the inbox in question by now. Or maybe she’ll change her tune when a thirty-point buck that’s lost his fear of humans decides she’s a challenger to his territory.