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Friendly neighborhood deer hunters

A white tailed deer in Saltaire on Fire

A white tailed deer in Saltaire on Fire Island, Dec. 15, 2015. Credit: Ed Betz

I got a cardboard flier in my mailbox. “FREE Deer Removal” is in red letters at the top. “Licensed & Insured,” it says.

The photo of a deer’s head with liquid, sad eyes and a sensitive nose is a most poignant advertisement for a removal message.

The back of the card says professional hunters “provide property owners with an effective solution to reducing conflicts with nuisance wildlife, expeditiously . . .” during hunting season in Suffolk County.

An explosion of the deer population on Long Island has been in the news, and will be again with the start of bow hunting season on Oct. 1.

In my area, the first casual sightings of deer several years ago elicited pleasure mixed with concern about how they manage in the winter. To have wildlife so close to our homes is a gift. Initially we were more enthusiastic. Deer are graceful, magical. But then they turned up to nibble tulip leaves, chew up hostas.

Our dead end street has a little wilderness between two houses. The trees mingle and tangle with vines to make invisible the life hidden there. My neighbors to the west have a fence around their property. The deer easily clear it. It’s only 6 feet high. They dine on hibiscus.

We reassessed their appeal. We don’t want to hit one on the roads! Their faces are impassive with large eyes. They vanish quickly, seemingly light as air as we drive by.

My car hit a deer at dusk one day this past spring. A road sign warned of deer crossing near my home in Setauket, so I was driving 25 mph, annoying the drivers behind me. A large buck with branching antlers burst from the tall brush and struck my front fender. I hit the brakes and swerved. The blow to the animal was solid but glancing. The buck continued across the road and disappeared. I pulled over and checked the tree and brush line to see whether he had been injured. No sign of him. My car was undamaged.

People are also afraid. A subversive quality of deer is the deer tick, which uses the deer in an intermediary stage to transmit Lyme disease, a bacterial affliction that causes rash, headache, fever and, later, possible arthritis, neurological and cardiac disorders.

How do I reconcile the contradictory feelings this animal arouses in me? My father in Minnesota brought home deer on his fender from hunting trips. We ate the venison that they provided. But the movie “Bambi” changed my feelings toward deer forever. Deer are wild animals, but the film helped me realize that they share human responses toward their own kind and suffer hardships and experience fear, just as we do.

I won’t take away the chicken wire enclosures around my hibiscus and roses, in any case. If need be, I’ve heard that putting balloons on or near my plants is effective in deer deterrence, but they lose air and need frequent replacement.

With bow hunting season about to begin, could I call the deer hunters? No, I would never call them, although my neighbors might. Powerful modern bows and arrows are too dangerous to humans in residential areas. Deer have a right to search for subsistence where they find themselves. Science is searching for a better way to solve the overpopulation problem.

Reader Betty Brown lives in Setauket.


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