Moline deer

These two were part of a herd of 11 deer that wandered into my yard last year. Drunk on acorns, they were unimpressed with me and my camera. Neither threatened to attack.

Bogus.

The Moline ordinance is bogus.

Here's the wording: "Whereas, it is in the City's best interest to control the population of deer within City limits to ensure public safety, most especially as it relates to the high number of deer-related traffic accidents ... the City Council desires to permit bow and arrow hunting of deer within City limits."

For one thing, no one knows how many deer live in or travel through Moline. A population assessment never has been done. And what public safety? There is no evidence that deer hunts reduce deer/vehicle collisions. And what other legitimate public-safety threat is there?

It's probably best to simply share my email Q&A with Moline's interim police chief, Capt. John Hitchcock. It sums things up:

Q: We have you saying at one time that there is little to no evidence to show that a deer hunt reduces vehicle-deer crashes. Is this correct?

A: The information I found locally did not show a direct correlation between crashes going down after initiation of a deer hunt program. Other areas claim to have had success with the program. I cannot say it would have an effect on ours until after the program was established, and we have numbers to work with.

Q: We also have you saying that (chronic) wasting disease could happen but currently is not a problem. Correct?

A: Wasting disease could happen. DNR (Department of Natural Resources) tells me CWD (chronic wasting disease) is not a problem in our area right now.

Q: If a hunt doesn’t reduce accidents, and we currently do not have a wasting-disease problem among the Moline deer population, how does a deer hunt offer “safety benefits” as you indicated at the late-September meeting?

A: Immediately measurable benefit would be a reduction in the risk of overpopulation. Overpopulation could lead to a possible shortage of food, more parasites, and the possibility of them wandering farther in search of food, possibly onto roadways. Deer can also be involved in the Lyme disease chain, although the jury is still out on how large a part they play.

Q: A resident at the (council) meeting said, “Deer are potentially deadly to humans.” In your career in law enforcement, have you ever experienced or even heard of an instance of a deer attacking a human?

A: Deer can potentially be dangerous to humans, but in my experience this has been very rare in the case of actual deer-on-human encounters. I have heard stories of people spooking deer and nearly getting trampled. The more frequent scenario is deer/auto crashes in which the occupants of the vehicle are injured. Deer do seem to be more bold in urban areas, most likely due to the fact they are more used to being in close proximity with humans. I have not seen a report of a deer “attacking” a human.

Let's review.

There is no evidence to show a correlation between urban deer hunting and deer/vehicle crashes.

Chronic wasting disease, CWD, is not a problem in our area.

Despite having no population figures, there is a "risk" of overpopulation, which "could lead" to "possible" problems.

Deer "can potentially" be dangerous to humans in "very rare" cases, but some have "heard stories" about people "nearly" getting trampled.

Well, that settles it. Let's kill 'em.

Of course, I'm being as ridiculous as the five of eight Moline aldermen (David Parker, Mike Wendt, Dick Potter, Lori Turner and Kevin Schoonmaker) who voted in favor of a deer hunt.

The council tried last year to accommodate a request by a Moliner who wanted to kill deer on his property. The DNR had to correct the city when it wrote an ordinance that incorrectly stated the DNR "determined that the issuance of a Deer Removal Permit is warranted to reduce the deer population."

The DNR said no such thing.

Besides, the applicant's chief complaint was that deer were eating his and his neighbors' plants. These people chose to live in a wooded area of the city, then planted hostas all over their yards and were dumbstruck when the resident herbivores bellied up to the garden bar.

The DNR stepped in then, too.

Wildlife biologist Scott Schaeffer wrote, "... it is DNR policy that DRPs (Deer Removal Permits) are not authorized to remove deer that damage residential ornamental plantings. The DRP policy stipulates that only after all other abatement options have been seriously employed and exhausted can an IDNR official consider or issue a DRP."

At that time, the DNR was not asked to weigh in on the dangers of deer.

So, when resident Elizabeth Keller, speaking to the council in favor of the deer hunt, proclaimed, "Deer are potentially deadly to humans," I got on the phone with Ed Cross, director of communications for the Illinois DNR.

"This is the first time I've ever been posed that question," Cross said. "As far as a deer killing someone, I've never even heard of it. Well, maybe a hunter falling out of a stand.

"If you hit a deer with a car or motorcycle, it can be very dangerous. Maybe if you were carrying a deer you killed and got crushed by its weight. Honestly, I can't think of a way they're dangerous to humans.

"It's not like they can take our arrows and use them against us, despite what the cartoons sometimes show." (I miss the Far Side, too.)

When I called Keller to ask why she is afraid of deer, I got mixed signals. First of all, she acknowledged actually seeing fewer deer this year than in previous years, which my Moline neighbors also have noted.

"I haven't seen big herds this year like I have in the past," Keller said. "But I have seen more damage to the plants."

(Gasp!)

"We are concerned," she continued. "We're concerned that they just look at us. I can throw sticks at them, and they don't move. They lay down right outside our window."

Sounds terrifying.

Then Keller said something that surprised me: "I take a million pictures of them, because they are so beautiful."

Let's review. Moline doesn't know its deer population, but anecdotal evidence suggests the numbers may actually be down this year; there is no evidence to support that killing some deer will reduce deer/vehicle accidents; deer do not pose an attack threat to humans; the DNR says people shouldn't be permitted to kill deer for eating their plants.

Even so, Moline has approved a deer cull on private land.

Let's face it: This isn't about public safety. It's not about the well-being of the city's deer herd. It's about plants. It's about humans' belief that their overall superiority gives them the right to kill any creature that inconveniences them.

And now Moline has made the wrong-minded sentiment a public policy. Bogus.

Ickes is a columnist with Quad-City Times. 

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