Letter to Editor: Too many deer

To the Editor:

In the Islander’s Nov. 1 edition’s Island Police report, I counted seven deer-vehicle crashes or near-crashes. In other places, a late-autumn spike in these encounters is attributed to deer-hunting season. But since the island doesn’t allow hunting, that argument doesn’t wash. Seasonal rut? Sure. But perhaps Mount Desert Island has a deer problem: too many.

These seven incidents are among the 3,000 to 4,000 deer-vehicle crashes (DVCs) that now happen every day in the U.S. They kill upwards of 250 people annually and hospitalize nearly 30,000 more.

Mount Desert Island mimics much of the eastern third of the country, especially suburban, exurban and rural sprawl where most people now live and where firearms restrictions make the primary deer-control method — hunting — impossible. Deer populations balloon to 30, 60, even over 100 per square mile, with devastating effects.

Besides DVCs, whitetails are a mass transit system of deer ticks, they munch away at crops, gardens, and landscaping, and they eat our forest understories — including tree seedlings — to such an extent that forest regeneration isn’t happening across literally millions of acres of northeastern forests and sustainable forestry is impossible. Without understory plants, birds can’t find insects to feed their babies.

Some people argue that we should bring back natural predators, mainly wolves and mountain lions. (Bears and coyotes kill some deer, mainly fawns.)

But historical research suggests that the biggest predator of deer since the end of the last Ice Age is us humans. But we have largely gotten out of the predation business. Sprawl man, and I include lots of Mount Desert Islanders here, don’t want deer controlled by hunters.

What this means — and this is important — is that in just the last few decades, for the first time in about 11,000 years, huge swaths of the white-tailed deer’s historic range, including this island, have been put off-limits to its biggest predator.

Jim Sterba

Mount Desert



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