opinion: Humane methods must be considered when addressing deer control in Barton Hills
As I read a letter that recently came across my desk from an Ann Arbor man expressing deep gratitude for the Humane Society of Huron Valley rescue staff who freed a panicked doe stuck in a fence, I am baffled by the mass deer shooting that was planned to take place in Barton Hills this week.
HSHV handles sick and injured wildlife for our county. As such, I am sensitive to the frustrations and risks that can come from living in an area overrun by any particular species. However, other than it being a nuisance, there seems no strong justification for the solution employed in this situation.
AnnArbor.com file photo
Every day we see the tragic ramifications of our culture of violence, a politic inclined toward quick fixes, and corporate practices without regard for ethics. It is time we demand that our leaders at all levels approach problems in a more principled and cautious way, especially when it impacts our delicate eco-system.
Along this same vein, at the end of 2012, Michigan passed a law that called for the hunting of wolves in Northern Michigan. After being driven to near extinction, these noble creatures were declared an endangered species decades ago. And now, once they show the slightest glimmer of resurgence, we start the senseless killing again.
Again, I realize there are unique challenges to the few communities that live near wolves. But are there really no strategies that we are able to try that better demonstrate our humanity and advanced intelligence as a species other than shoot it?
For “urban deer,” there are in fact many communities across the country now testing out humane, non-lethal population control methods. They are not, however, quick and easy fixes.
As we have seen historically with the overpopulation of feral cats, we as humans create a problem and then tend to jump to extermination as a cheap and easy remedy. But, this is a very clear case of “you get what you pay for.” Such a remedy is not only unacceptable to animal lovers and an example of brutality for our kids to see, it also is an exercise in futility.
Creating large holes in a population only creates a well-documented phenomenon called the “vacuum effect”. It allows the entrance of animals from other areas and spurs more rapid reproduction of the species under attack, ultimately accomplishing nothing. Our experience and the research show that stopping reproduction, while keeping the animals in their habitat, facilitates a slow but steady population decline.
There is ample evidence showing that the most humane and balanced methods related to human/wildlife conflicts also are the most effective ones. I am deeply saddened by the recent decision made in Ann Arbor and Michigan’s new open season on wolves. I know many others who feel the same. I hope in the future we will find a way to work together to push beyond quick fixes and senseless assault on animals, and model for our children more thoughtful and principled problem solving.
Tanya Hilgendorf is the president and CEO of the Humane Society of Huron Valley.