Deer Are a Menace and We Need to Kill a Lot More of Them
In 2017, the total deer population in the United States was an estimated 33.5 million, down from 38.1 million in 2000. Hunters should rejoice over their excellent shooting, and then get outside and kill millions more.
This macabre call to arms might unsettle anyone whose heart ached at viewing the plight of poor Bambi, but it's a prescription that's sorely needed, for at their current population, deer are ravaging ecosystems across the country.
This wasn't the case in the very early 1900s. Then, after decades of wanton hunting, there may have been as few as 300,000 deer left roaming the wilds of America. Hunting moratoriums, favorable human-caused ecosystem changes (i.e. more farm land), declining wolf and cougar populations (the major natural predators of deer), two world wars (leaving fewer hunters at home), and yes, the influential film Bambi, all combined to send deer populations skyrocketing during much of the 20th century. The recovery was wonderful for deer, but terrible for other organisms.
Deer devoured countless wildflowers close to extinction and devastated saplings of cedar, hemlock, and oak. All of this eating, amounting to more than 2,000 pounds of plant matter per deer per year, might account for widespread declines of North American songbird populations, which rely on many of the plants upon which deer gorged themselves.
Observing the detrimental changes wrought by grazing deer, legendary ecologist Aldo Leopold wrote, "I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anaemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddlehorn."
"I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer."
Perhaps Disney should remake Bambi from the perspective of a trillium wildflower?
Deer don't only wreck ecosystems; they also cause car wrecks. Between 1 and 1.5 million cars collide with deer annually in the U.S., causing approximately 10,000 injuries, and resulting in almost a billion dollars worth of damage. Drivers in West Virginia are most at risk. Their odds of colliding with a deer are 1 in 46.
Deer are also hubs of ticks, the insidious arachnids that spread diseases like Lyme disease, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis to humans.
It's for all of these reasons that wildlife managers, ecologists, and even The Nature Conservancy have labeled deer, at their current populations, a grave threat to ecosystems all over the United States, and advocate measures to limit their spread, of which hunting is the most effective option.
Unfortunately, hunters are increasingly in short supply. As Jason Stein reported for OnWisconsin, "Nationally, the number of hunters dropped 16 percent from 2011 to 2016, according to a national survey released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Census Bureau. The level of hunting in 2016 was the lowest measured in the past 25 years."
Millennials are wrongly scapegoated for a variety of societal problems, but they can absolutely be blamed for lethargy when it comes to hunting. Nine out of every 100 Americans hunted or fished in 1980. It is predicted that only three out of 100 will do the same in 2025.
Moreover, the hunters who remain aren't often fans of drastically reducing deer populations. Most prefer killing a rare prized buck rather than shooting many more does – the latter would reduce populations much more. Higher deer densities also lessen the chance of returning home from a hunt empty-handed.
At their current populations, deer are an ecological scourge and must be killed by the millions. Americans, it's time to eat some venison. Hasta la vista, Bambi.