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Oh Deer

States all across the country are battling the same difficult deer overpopulation problem, as the animals not only tear up landscaping but pose a threat to drivers. No longer adorable, residents are tired of seeing deer in their yards, eating away ornamentals in the blink of an eye. Reason Magazine describes that economic damage to agriculture, wood, and landscaping by deer totals more than $1.2 billion a year.

Yet, solving the deer problem has so far proved impossibly difficult.

Deer, which Reason calls North America's most dangerous animal, have few natural predators and breed very quickly. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that white-tailed deer kill around 130 Americans each year by causing car accidents. There are about 1.5 million deer/vehicle collisions annually, resulting in 29,000 human injuries and over $1 billion in insurance claims. (Bears and mountain lions do not come even close. The total deaths caused by bears in the entire 20th century was 128).

Deer also carry the ticks that transmit Lyme disease to about 13,000 people each year and rising.

Yet every week, it seems another failed attempt at controlling the deer population occurs in the news. Most notably, residents in Cedar Rapids have been fiercely debating a plan to hire bow hunters to shoot the deer with bows and arrows. Those in favor of using bows and arrows argue that they want to be involved and help, whereas others argue it is animal cruelty as it inflicts great pain upon the deer. They also argue that it is humans are essentially invading deer habitats.

“What you have here is a cruelty situation. I don’t think it’s a situation that’s helping anything. I think that not only is it cruel, it’s also inefficient," resident Chad Cooper said.

Residents in Valley City, ND are also considering bow hunters, as well as a hot sauce mixture.

New Jersey has attempted to use a deer contraceptive, nicknamed the "magic bullet," which would be shot into the deer several times over the course of several years. However a recent study showed that the contraceptive is not producing the 90-plus percent effective rate needed to make it feasible in some situations. It also costs at least $1,000 per dear whereas bow hunters charge $150 to $300 to shoot a dear.

Many states have expanded their hunting seasons, however that illuminates a larger issue; many places where the deer overpopulation is occurring are in residential, suburban, and urban areas, places that it is unsafe to shoot bows or bullets.

Wildlife experts in North Carolina argue that the deer population is not growing out of control; in fact the deer population in the state appears to be stable. It's the increasing number of people that are crowding the animals out. "There's less habitat," argued George Strader, a district biologist for the N.C. Wildlife Resources commission. Often, deer complaints come from areas that at one time were rural.

Researchers estimate that white-tailed deer numbered between 23 and 34 million prior to the arrival of European settlers. By the early 20th century, deer populations had fallen to between 300,000 and 500,000. A hunting act was passed, and the deer populations rose back to around 27 million animals today.

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June 16, 2019, 10:37 pm PDT

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