Culling the Herd - Bow Hunting in Westchester County
According to wildlife experts, the natural density of deer per square mile on the East Coast of the United States should be five animals (5). Given the lack of natural predators and lots of man-made food in the form of abundant suburban gardens, the deer population in Dobbs Ferry has exploded in the last twenty years. On any given morning, a herd of 12 deer are grazing on the Ardsley Country Club golf course, after completing their daily migration down from their sleeping hollows in the Juhring Estate.
Over the years, various homeowners, particularly those with masterpiece gardens, have militated for a culling of the herd. But time and again inertia sets in as the Mayor and Village Trustees defer action in the face of public outrage and concern.
The latest initiative to cull the herd is coming from a new constituency in Westchester County, the powerful bow hunting lobby. These culture warriors are fighting for their God-given dominance over the animal kingdom. Apparently, the Parks Department has decided to promote bow hunting throughout the County as a way of reducing the deer populations.
Arrayed against the bow hunters are the usual collection of NIMBYs, treehuggers and lacrosse Moms who are apoplexic at the thought of wholesome deer carcasses littering the woods. Not to be outdone, especially on public service cable, Dobbs Ferry's relentless coterie of historians joined the fray. Led by Jim McCue, they conjured up allusions of William the Second, the son of William the Conqueror, lying dead from an errant arrow in a hunting accident on August 2, 1100.
The bottom line is that something needs to be done about the exploding deer population. As their numbers increase, the forests are getting more and more distressed as they eat the shrubs and saplings to survive the winter. With the ground cover and saplings gone, the woods are slowly dying and turning into a temperate savannah. In fact, the deer population is remaking the Juhring Estate and the other nature preserves in Dobbs Ferry into habitats optimized for their fecundity.
Naturalists would tell you that such processes wherein a species modifies its environment to increase its numbers are common in nature. Other than the obvious master of environmental alteration, man, creatures like giraffes, elephants and the wildebeasts successively devastate layers of vegetation in the Sergenti-- low, medium and high food layers -- that enable these individual species to prosper over long periods of time.
So the contest is not between the hunters and nervous Nellies of Dobbs Ferry, but between man and deer over which species gets to determine how the environment of the Juhring Estate will be modified to maximize its survival and enjoyment. The humans basically want a park-like wood, free of insects and poison ivy, that they can visit with their domesticated wolves to get away from the anxieties of global conflict and economic collapse -- or a mountain-lion-proof place for a nocturnal keg party. An occassional deer, turkey or hawk add to the romantic ideal of man in nature. The deer, on the other hand, want as much food as possible that they can reach with their stubby necks. Their strategy is to hasten the removal of the tree canopy so that sunlight can reach the ground and nuture succulent grasses and scrubs.
Since we, the humans, naturally have the upper hand, it is time for Mayor Seskin and the Board of Trustees to hire professional hunters or trappers who will cull the herd down to a density of 5 animals per square mile and allow the woods to return to their anthrocentric state. That culling should not be left to amateur bow hunters who eventually are going to fell Willam the Second while aiming at a sixteen point buck.
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