A citywide deer hunt may just be the right move in Moline. But good luck building the argument without data backing it up.
And should the hunt ultimately garner approval, Moline should strive to do some good with the resulting influx of venison while promoting the social importance of outdoor sports.
Moline City Council this week gave city staff approval to draft an ordinance that could see bow-weilding hunters culling the herd on private land by a 5-3 procedural vote. Anecdotal evidence shows similar programs have had a measure of success at controlling the herd in Rock Island, Bettendorf and Davenport. The committee-of-the-whole vote requires the City Council to render a final verdict on the plan after it's drafted.
But in all instances, and especially at a point in time when so many govern by instinct, Moline would do well by first assessing the size of its herd scientifically and drafting a program around the findings.
Anything else would be putting the quiver before the arrow.
Several members of Moline City Council reached that very same conclusion Tuesday night.
Fact is, the deer harvest is more about protecting gardens than it is motorists, a point Interim Police Chief John Hitchcock pounded home when detailing statistically insignificant changes in deer-vehicle collissions after neighboring cities started culling herds. That said, it's exceedingly likely that large numbers of deer — largely segregated from other predators within city limits — are thriving in Moline's gullies and urban woodlots.
In a very real sense, a well-regulated hunt is tantamount to humanity assuming the role of the wolves and coyotes whom they displaced centuries ago.
But right now, all the moral and ecological philosophizing isn't backed by science. Surely, a working understanding of the size, range and movement patterns of Moline's deer herd would birth a more effective and flexible plan.
Should the facts reinforce the need for culling the deer population, city officials should seize on the opportunity to help feed the poor. Illinois Department of Natural Resources already encourages hunters to donate their meat to charities and food banks through its Sportsmen Against Hunger Program.
Since DNR would be an obvious resource for both permitting and research, it only makes sense for Moline to join forces with DNR and emphasize the potential good of such a deer hunt. All communities within the Quad-Cities should follow such a model.
The number of hunters in the U.S. is plunging. The Midwest touts some of the finest deer hunting in the country, but that resource is hard to tap because of a relative dearth of public land. It's hunters and anglers who have, for decades, served as the primary revenue source for public land protection and management. As their numbers dwindle, state officials have boosted licensing fees to make up the difference. It's a vicious cycle that's only hastening hunting's fall into irrelevance, a potentially devastating loss for anyone who appreciates access to public land.
Paring city-sanctioned deer harvests with social betterment could bring more young people into the sport. It would be a foil against complaints by those who refuse to recognize hunting's fundamental place in human development. It could mean protein for Moline's poor.
It would give purpose that, right now, is little but a movement to protect people's hostas, assuming science backs it all up.