Too cute to kill? US split on suburban deer


AP photo

WASHINGTON – Seconds after Mike Braun spotted the deer in his headlights, his six-day-old car had $8,000 worth of damage, including a punctured radiator.

“It could have been a lot worse,” said the consultant, who lives in the US capital, as he recalled his drive home from the airport late one night in June.

Luckily, Braun wasn’t hurt and the deer darted off.

Close calls such as this highlight the tension between humans and their hoofed neighbors.

While beloved by many, Bambi is blamed not only for accidents – 1.2 million between July 2011 and June 2012 according to one estimate – but also a loss of vegetation and even the spread of disease in suburban America.

Amid safety qualms about shooting rifles in residential areas, communities are getting creative and turning to bow hunting and even birth control to keep down deer numbers in towns and suburbs.

Near Washington, some homeowners irked by deer lunching on their landscaping or worried about Lyme disease – transmitted by the deer tick – call on archery experts to carry out culls.

Occasionally in camouflage, hunters use portable tree stands and modern equipment that is a far cry from the traditional Robin Hood-type bows and arrows, said Gregg Brown, spokesman for Suburban Whitetail Management of Northern Virginia.

Shots are taken from an elevated position and at close range, sometimes after an hours-long wait.

“It is proven to be very safe,” Brown said.

But critics argue that deer can die a slow and painful death and that arrows might go astray, endangering people and pets.

–          Bullets a better bet? –

“I think the question that should be asked is do we have to kill? Why can’t we find better solutions that keep those deer alive?” said Anja Heister of In Defense of Animals.

Her California-based group, together with others, took legal action against a decision to shoot deer in Rock Creek Park, Washington’s green lung. Twenty were culled in March, with follow-up planned for the fall.

“Over the last 20 years, the park’s white-tailed deer population has grown so large that the deer are eating nearly all tree seedlings, preventing forest sustainability,” the National Park Service said.

The activists, who recently turned in a legal petition with what they called a new expert analysis that casts “serious doubt” on justification for the killings, point to birth control as a humane way for handling such situations.

“My preference would be to let those animals be,” Heister said of culls in general. But “the next best thing in my mind is, yes, contraception.”

–          Bambi birth control –

Near New York City, a community is preparing to give it a try.

“If it works it would be great for us because we will finally have a tool that will not prompt a reaction out of the public – a negative reaction,” said Hastings-on-Hudson Mayor Peter Swiderski.

“It will be humane and it will also be a terrific alternative for literally the thousands other communities like ours that also face this. We are not alone.”

The village of two square miles (five square kilometers) has roughly 8,000 residents – and somewhere between 70 and 100 deer, he said.

These, he added, cause about a dozen car crashes a year and the disappearance of underbrush.

“It used to be if a tree fell down, there were saplings to take its place,” he said. But now, “other than some raspberry bushes and weeds, nothing else much survives.”

The immunocontraceptive – consisting of porcine zona pellucida from pig ovaries – is administered as a vaccine, said Allen Rutberg, director of Tufts University’s Center for Animals and Public Policy, who is working with Swiderski.

Around since the 1970s, it was first developed for potential human use, he added. While it didn’t work out for that purpose, it has proven effective on deer in different locations, as well as on other animals.

“What we are looking at is a technique that people in the suburbs can be comfortable with,” he said.

Braun, reflecting on his scare, suggested the best way to deal with the deer dilemma was to keep a cool head and consider all the facts.

“You have to sit down and figure out without the emotion what’s actually going to work, what’s going to not … put the deer in any unnecessary pain,” he said.

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • Vertumnus

    The deer have been there first! You can’t blame them for walking on land that used to be woodlands. Suburban encroachment have left no place for them to go to.
    Without anyone to speak for them, the deer are made to suffer by being struck by cars then get blame for it. Typical people! To all the drivers, see the sign that says “Deer Crossing”, guess what, they do!

    • GustoKoHappyKa

      You can’t blame the driver if a deer suddenly jump in front of a car..most of the accident happened that way… that’s what happened to my friend when he’s travelling at night from Chicago to MN.

      • Kilabot ng mga Balahibo

        “Dear Crossing”

        hehe, i guess the deer failed to read the sign, then panicked.

        but seriously, I agree to what you read, most of the accidents that happened was when the deer panics.

      • GustoKoHappyKa

        Actually di ko nabasa yon lol… yun state trooper ang mismo nagkwento sa amin… tinanong nga kung sino kukuha non deer….pwede daw gawin tapa lol…

      • sanjuan683

        Papaano tatapahin yan nag wi-winter sa Virginia at Maryland pinababayaan na lang namin kapag nakasagasa ng deer. Wala naman bumibili ng botcha dito.

  • mumbaki ak

    people killed its natural predators. now that the animal is becoming more of a pest, they have to do the hunting.

  • farmerpo

    Promote venison burger. Very lean, very low in cholesterol,tasty and tender.

    • Kilabot ng mga Balahibo

      aye, aye.

      i prefer goat myself. but i wouldn’t say no to your proposal.

  • DGuardian

    Life is sacred, be it human or animal. In this case, birth control is the humane and noble recourse to resolve the issue.

  • disqus_ZrxaGjUzMQ

    export bambi to asia

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks



latest videos