|Deer on a gold course on Jekyll Island, GA late last month|
|Deer in the sand dunes on Jekyll Island|
It's not like the problem has suddenly occurred, as population growth takes time. Indeed, the cull was proposed long before last month. However, concerned citizens fear for the loss of the deer. This group, as well as a few others, have caused the cull to be put off, if not stopped completely. Another major reason why the cull has been opposed is that the deer are a tourist attraction. However, this is the exact opposite view to what should be held by those concerned about a precious natural resource such as these deer.
Most experts agree that culls can be quite useful and helpful in management of wildlife for a variety of reasons. In the case of the Jekyll Island deer, the major concern is for the animals themselves. As I already mentioned, having a population above its sustainable size means there is not enough food for the animals. Not enough food means hungry, hungry animals. Feeding these animals is not the solution. As I've mentioned before, feeding of animals is dangerous. In this case the biggest concerns are the animals eating improper food, disease transmission between animals, and dangers posed to people. Though deer look cute, they can actually be quite dangerous. People have been attacked and killed by deer before. Mother deer are very defensive of their fawns and those hooves are sharp. Even worse are the bucks, who can be quite aggressive. This is especially true during rut, when hormones run high and males compete for the right to mate with as many females as possible. Antlers are like knives and a rutting male will not hesitate in charging at a perceived threat, antlers first. When you combine a potentially quite dangerous animal with a loss of its natural fear of people thanks to feeding and a decrease in natural food sources thanks to overpopulation it's like a powder-keg.
What this all boils down to, is that the cull needs to occur. If it doesn't, bad things will start to happen. After the natural food sources run out, deer will start to starve to death. Those hungry deer will be spotted in developed areas more and more, eating every bit of potential food they can get their mouths on. This includes gardens, which may lead to animals being poisoned by plants that they aren't meant to eat. Since the deer will be in closer proximity to people, the risk of attacks will skyrocket, particularly involving deer that have been fed by people. With the population as high as it is, it's not a matter of if these things will happen, it's a matter of when.
A lot of positive results will come out of a cull. The deer will not get to the point of starving and thus will continue to be a healthy population. The risk to people will drop significantly. Lastly, the deer that are killed need not go to waste. Similar to the hogs killed by hunters in areas where they are a serious issue, the meat can be donated to soup kitchens or other groups that help feed the hungry.
Sources are the Athens Banner-Herald, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Florida Times-Union, Jekyll Island Family Adventures, Wildlife Rescue South Coast Inc, WLTX, City of Fort Thomas, KY, and Texas Parks & Wildlife. Images from Flickr.com under Creative Commons licenses: one, two.