Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Day the Earth Stood Still: ODW and HSUS agree on something

Normally the Ohio Division of Wildlife and the Humane Society of the United States are not even in the same book let alone on the same page.

And yet the state agency pegged with managing fish and wildlife as a renewable resource and one of the nation’s most aggressive so-called animal rights groups are in accord on one subject anyway.

The Wildlife Division and the Humane Society together agree that it’s a not-too-bright idea to feed urbanized white-tailed deer. Otherwise, the Humane Society and the Wildlife Division say in unison, conflicts and confrontations between humans and deer no doubt will increase.

Both opposing points on the wildlife management compass say that the implication of “wild” in wild animals is just another word for “unpredictable.”

Just how the two polar opposite entities approached a recent “see-I-told-you-so” example is where a diversion of tactics exists, however.

That incident occurred earlier this month in the small Monroe County community of Clarington.

What happened was that a well-meaning clutch of Clarington neighbors began hand-feeding a buck white-tailed deer. So “tame” had this deer become that some people even allowed the buck to eat from their hands.

Yet what sounds like a story of a wild animal becoming something of a domesticated ungulate is really a red-flag of a potentially serious incident.

Concerned with the approach of the breeding season for white-tailed deer, the Wildlife Division took a protective and aggressive approach in dealing with the animal. An officer with the Wildlife Division shot the animal.

That action outraged many of Clarington’s fine folk; people who believed the deer should have been relocated.

However, the Wildlife Division is not retreating, noting that relocating a wild animal along the lines of a high-strung white-tailed deer is neither easy nor free of potential safety issues for it and any capturing personnel.

Besides, says Wildlife Division chief Scott Zody, where does one transplant a deer to in Ohio – especially in deer-rich southeast?

Where, indeed, begs an answer.

“The buck was a free-range deer and at least 1 ½ years old; maybe 2 ½ years old,” said Zody. “This deer was put down for safety reasons; it’s highly abnormal for a free-range deer to act in the manner of this buck.”

Zody said also that since the rut is only several weeks away, the laws of nature says the buck will certainly become more aggressive when its full measure of testosterone “kicks in.”

“Imagine a child coming between that buck and a doe in heat during the rut,” Zody said.

With the icy-cold logic of science behind it the Wildlife Division took the last remaining – and practical – option by dispatching the buck.

“If you were to watch the videos in the story presented on one of the local television news broadcasts you would see the buck ‘playing’ with a man; exhibiting the early signs of sparring behavior,” Zody said. “A month or so from now when those antlers will be shed of their velvet and become sharp, such a scenario would not end well.”

Yes, says the Humane Society’s Ohio State Director/State Affairs Ms. Corey Roscoe, feeding deer in the manner done in Clarington was a pretty bad idea.

Ms. Roscoe says the Humane Society fully understands as well that a ill-considered tame buck in rut is a potentially serious matter that could harm someone.

Now comes the Humane Society’s “but.”

“But a non-lethal approach should have been tried before the rather arbitrary decision to kill the animal was made,” Roscoe said. “There are many ways to live harmoniously with wildlife (which) are able to use the urbanized habitat we share.”

Furthermore, Roscoe calls the Wildlife Division’s decision to dispatch the buck “a slippery slope” where killing a potentially injurious animal is preferable to educating the public about the dangers, risks and harm of feeding critters like the buck.

On that educational point the Wildlife Division also is in agreement, pointing out the folly of trying to tame what Nature never really intended to be tamed.

Now if the good citizens of Clarington and its elected officials would only put the brakes on their emotions and apply common sense, they – and the deer of Monroe County – will be better off.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.

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