To the Editor:
J. Clark Stivers’ letter to the editor in last week’s Islander hit the nail on the head when he said that 54 percent of the population in Bar Harbor are relieved that this deer hunt question is now behind us.
I thank him for his concern and letter but would like to assure him that on Mount Desert Island, the problem is not the deer but rather humans and their perspective of deer.
The one piece of information we received during this discussion is that the deer herd on MDI is under the ecological carrying capacity. From the management task force’s own report, we heard that “There are no current estimates of deer densities in Bar Harbor or on MDI; although browsing data from Acadia National Park and the general health of the deer do not suggest that they are above their ecological carrying capacity (population the habitat can sustainably support).” This struck a chord in me as a biologist and made me ask why we should have a hunt on an island which is home to Acadia National Park.
This island is a sanctuary and one of the most amazing places on the earth. We have an ecologically in-balance population of animals. It brings great wealth and economy to untold numbers of people in an amazing variety of ways. All of our lives depend on balance which is achieved in biological ways. People come here to spend money for nature-based experiences, and the 54 percent of citizens in Bar Harbor got that message and have preserved something first realized in 1931. I personally am proud of everyone for engaging in the discussion.
Energy in an ecological system flows from one trophic level to the next. Our deer are herbivores that eat and control certain plants and trees. The fact that we are under our carrying capacity means that the number of deer on MDI is supported by our ecosystem. There appears to be no damage to the natural habitat. (Bar Harbor yards are not natural). We have healthy bands of coyote that are one of the main predators of deer. Do deer eat people’s deer attracting shrubs and gardens? Of course they do. One solution: Plant different plants in your yards.
Stivers asked how or what is going to control our deer population. One answer is that natural population controls like long and hard winters are going to have a drastic affect on the MDI deer population in combination with predators. Humans, because of their personal driving habits, are going to kill some, too.
MDI is a unique place, like Isle Royal in Michigan where moose and wolves continue a long-term relationship where each is controlled by natural factors like winter weather. Stivers seems concerned about a problem that does not exist. Once again, we are experiencing another winter that will cause great harm to our local deer population. It will be weeded out by extreme cold and lack of food. Deer will die this winter. They will be eaten by predators that will leave behind leftovers for bald eagles and other animals that eat carrion. In the spring, birds will use the fur to line their nests, and the cycle will continue.
The Bar Harbor Town Council should listen and start to ask real questions like “How do we develop our communities so we control deer and Lyme disease?” One great start is by stopping poor land use practices and taking a long and serious look at our zoning. One good example is happening on the Indian Point Road. A new subdivision has just been started by a local developer. What was the first thing they did? They removed the understory, unnecessarily fragmenting the forest. Once you fragment the forest, you start creating deer habitat.
Stop this now with smart development instead of the same old, same old ways!
There are some great measures Stivers and other members of the Bar Harbor Council can take immediately to stop the growth of our deer population. The question now is “Can this current group of council members see past their noses and open their minds to new ideas?”
Michael J. Good