Monday, August 8, 2016

They Were Here First

We live in a gated community that comprises more than four thousand acres of woodland.  It is an older planned community, having been established more than forty years ago.  Homes must be built with minimum impact on the environment.  We have miles of nature trails and hiking trails, four lakes and multiple streams with waterfalls.  The community is fully owned and overseen by residents.  We have a General Manager and a team of people who attend to the business and maintenance, but they report to the Board of Directors of the Property Owner's Association, all of whom are elected by residents.  One of our community's "core values" is stewardship of the environment.

As one might expect, we have abundant wildlife here.  From our own house we have seen bears, coyotes, bobcats, and the usual wild turkeys, 'possums, 'coons, skunks, foxes, etc., walking across our property.  By far the most frequently seen wildlife (except for the damned squirrels) are deer.  It is a rare day that I do not see several deer along our roads.  We planted shrubbery known to be rather distasteful to deer, but that doesn't mean they won't give anything a try.  So we regularly spray with organic repellent around our favorite plants.

Most of the citizens who live here are fine with the deer.  They are part of the community and we simply know to watch for them crossing the roads and we know we will have some damage to our plants no matter how diligent we are.  Because we have so much forest and green space, our deer are healthy.  They are not over-populated like they often are in the suburbs of large cities.

A doe and her twin fawns near our mailbox early one morning
They were alert but not frightened at all by my presence.

Imagine my surprise when I learned there is talk among a few residents about "culling" some of the deer.  At a recent property owners meeting, there was a small rumble about the deer "problem."  And what a "nuisance" the deer were.  One resident gave a dollar estimate of how many plants he had lost to deer.  My blood boils when I hear such talk.  The really impossible thing to believe was one suggestion that we allow archers to come in and "cull" the deer.  They wouldn't have to go on private property, just hunt them along the roadside.  They tried to justify the actions by saying the community could donate the meat to our local pantry, and serve some venison in our club house dining room.

Fortunately those few ideas were quickly dismissed.  The overwhelming majority of property owners consider the deer as a natural part of our environment who have as much right to share our part of the mountain as the people do.  When I heard the man wanting to bring in archers,  I thought to myself, "Who ARE these people who have invaded our community?"

Photo taken from my car with my iPod.
When a deer crosses in front of you, you stop to wait for the rest of them.
Now how sporting would it be to kill such tame animals?

We have lived in typical suburbia where the community was divided between those who fed the deer and those who wanted them eliminated.  The deer there were indeed overpopulated and unhealthy and I was in favor of removing some of them.  Feeding any wildlife is a horrible practice that never has a good end.  There are prominent signs at all three of our community entrances that feeding of any wild animal is strictly forbidden.

Yes, we have the occasional bear break-in, most often because someone left food on a screened porch or deck.  Bears will tear down bird feeders left outside at night.  And a dog will occasionally get sprayed by a skunk.  And deer will try to eat plants, even if the plants are considered "resistant to deer."  And that's what happens when you live in the woods.  And we don't mind one bit.

[OK, we DID mind a lot when a flying squirrel committed suicide by crawling into the dryer outlet vent.]  But generally speaking, we adapt to the animals rather than expecting them to adapt to us.

After all, they were here first.


Nance said...

Sigh. I feel very much the same way you do. Here in our area, a deer is an unusual, but not rare, sight. It never loses its awe for me, but when it happens in broad daylight alongside a major roadway in town, I am very concerned. A golf course is being redone in a woody glen area, and I recently slammed on my brakes when a doe suddenly appeared roadside, seemingly unconcerned. I waited for quite some time, knowing that they usually appear in pairs. After a bit, I slowly drove on; the several drivers after me did the same.

Due to the drought conditions here, some urban coyotes--extremely rare--are starting to appear. That changes the game considerably.

Carolina Linthead said...

Indeed. We did see the occasional deer in our Fairfield suburb: there were undeveloped woods, fields, and pond to support waterfowl migration. Up in Urbana, it is normal to see deer on campus. The grass is green, we have a few apple trees, etc. In our current neighborhood, we get the occasional rabbits (saw one last evening), skunks, raccoons, and possums, but not that many..."except for the damned squirrels." That phrase made me laugh out loud. You live in a beautiful woodland space...may it always be so.

robin andrea said...

I'm glad your community didn't go with the idea of culling the herd. Yikes. That's the kind of conversation that makes neighbors unhappy with each other. I hope no one decides to take matters into their own hands. That would not be a good thing at all. Wildlife is already under attack by all of our encroachment on their smaller and smaller amounts of territory. It would be so good if we could all learn to live together or at least tolerate each other. Your community sounds beautiful.

troutbirder said...

We always had a few deer around our small neighborhood in the big woods. Now lots more people and lots more deer (29) passed thru on the way to one of new neighbors with a giant feeder. Turn out the deer love white cedar and the feeder couple heard it from quite a few..... I just took pictures though...:)

Cheryl said...

What a wonderful place to live. My idea of perfection, even with the flying squirrel.......

I hope they never cull the deer, unless their numbers grow and they need to be culled for the health of the herd.

Enjoy your day in the woods :)

Arkansas Patti said...

What a shame there are those who don't even realize they are living in paradise. Even when the deer cleaned out my peach tree, I was still on their side. I would pay what ever price necessary to have such gorgeous lawn ornaments but I would never feed them. That hurts the deer. Like you said, if the herd gets unhealthy due to overpopulation, then extreme measures might be necessary. But just because people might have to drive a little slower or when someone's favorite flowers are eaten----?

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

I am so with you on this issue. Why people feel that the animals (deer) are the invaders is beyond me because as you said they were there first. Perhaps it is some of the human inhabitants that need to be culled out and relocated themselves to areas where they will have other nuisances in urban living?

Lynn said...

My sister has a vacation home in western North Carolina (Hayesville)- that sits right on the Hiwassee River. We love it went the deer cross the river - so graceful. I was making dinner in the kitchen there one day, looked up and a deer was in the yard looking at me through the window. We made eye contact - I moved quietly toward my phone to snap its pic and it ran gracefully into the river and into the woods beyond.

(I was inspired to come to your lovely blog when I read your comment on The Frog and PenguINN blog.)

Anonymous said...

Just yesterday someone in our neighborhood sent out an e-mail that he had seen several deer--complete with antlers--walking up the sidewalk in our very urban area. There are also wolves and coyote. Don't think the city thinks much about preserving the environment; whatever gives them the most property taxes is #1.

When we lived in Wilmington, we were in a neighborhood that had been a nature preserve where the very rich had hunted. When the property was sold to a developer who built golf courses and houses, the wildlife had nowhere to go. So. . . the HOA called in the archers. Sickening.

On the other hand, I have friends who bought their house and three acres when it was on a dirt lane in the middle of nowhere. All was fine until developers bought the land all around them and started building houses. My friend is a Master Gardener and an environmentalist. Her gardens were lovely and often on tours. The deer have devastated it. Her foolish neighbors up the street feed them, making the situation even worse. Not long ago she said that there were 27 deer lying in her front yard for the night. I certainly understand her frustration. Developers feel no obligation for the harm they do.

Vicki Lane said...

Yes indeed. We share our life (and plants) with wildlife. Even when they ravage my garden, I still get a thrill out of seeing the critters. We keep our chickens penned up to keep them safe -- I think some sort of enclosure for part of our garden is going to be necessary.

It sounds like the majority of folks in your community have the right idea.

NCmountainwoman said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone.

Nance - It is amazing how much the weather plays in wildlife, isn't it? I've heard about the influx of coyotes in the Mid-West.

Linthead - We have seen more foxes and coyotes this year. Which explains why we rarely see any rabbits. Hope that will change.

Robin - Thanks. We do love our community. Interestingly enough, most of the animal complaints come from summer residents, not the year-'round residents.

Troutbirder - 29. That's a lot of deer.

Cheryl - We have so much acreage and green space that it's not likely we will get an over population. And our boundaries are not enclosed so the deer can wander off at any time. They are not confined at all.

Patti - Our community-wide speed limit is only 25, so everyone should be driving slowly anyway. I have not heard of a deer getting hit by a car in our community, but I frequently see dead deer by the roadside on the rode to town.

Beatrice - Well said.

Lynn - Thanks for dropping by. I checked your blog and saw the lovely area where your sister lives.

Marylee - Yes, many developers pay no attention to the needs of the wildlife in the area.

Vicki - Yes, only a couple of people raised the issue and this is the first time I've ever heard anyone suggest killing any deer. When you live on a farm such as yours you have no option but to live with the animals and lose some of your vegetables.