Original post made
on May 14, 2008
A combination of faulty risk assessment and bio-bigotry was displayed by the tender treatment of the deer that recently infiltrated the Barron Park neighborhood. Deer are this country's most deadly wild animal, currently killing more than 200 Americans a year (more than double the toll of 15 years ago (1993)). And they seriously injure and sicken uncounted more.
The toll from other wild animals pale in comparison: bees (average of 40 deaths) and rattlesnakes (12) are the next biggest killers.
The deer's most deadly tactic is the night-time ambush along a lonely stretch of road, but they also stage brazen attacks on busy interstates. My housemate is a survivor of three such horrifying incidents.
In addition to these suicide attacks, deer are engaged in a massive biological warfare program. They incubate untold tons of pathogens, such as Lyme Disease, and possess abundant delivery systems ideally suited for surreptitiously distributing these diseases: ticks.
Who knows what the human toll would be if it weren't for vigilant mountain lions quietly neutralizing tens of thousands of these killer deer before they complete their nefarious missions?
Yet, because mountain lions inadvertently kill 1-2 people a year as a result of mistaking them for deer, they are routinely killed upon venturing into populated areas, while the dangerous deer are set free.
Intrusions by deer deep into Palo Alto have become larger and more frequent. For example, in my neighborhood - Barron Park - deer have become established along the Matadero Creek corridor and have been repeatedly seen as close as two blocks from El Camino during daylight hours. Yet, the City has made no effort to assess, much less handle, this developing problem.
The following comments are based upon 15 years of experience with the Palo Alto Process.
As with many issues in Palo Alto, the initial controversies are likely to be related to traffic, and in this case traffic safety. In collisions, deer - unlike pedestrians and bicyclists - typically inflict substantial damage to speeding vehicles. But current City procedures are too slow and cumbersome for timely responses to this predictable problem.
The City's typical first step for a traffic problem is an education campaign, but having self-selected deer wear slogans such as "I look before I leap" has not proven successful.
Proposals to post "Deer Crossing" signs at trouble spots will generate widespread opposition. Nearby homeowners will worry that their property values will be harmed by highlighting the "deer problem." Nearby neighborhoods will fear that traffic will increase on their streets as drivers try to avoid the marked problem areas. These groups will cite the lack of formal criteria for determining whether a sign is warranted as justifying indefinite delay.
Still others will oppose the signs on the basis that spot treatments reduce the pressure to address the real problem, that is, that all streets should be made safe for deer. Some will take this further and argue that such signs trample upon the rights of deer, implicitly limiting them to only the designated crossing spots, and thereby making unmarked locations even more dangerous.
Deer also present a challenge for Palo Alto's zoning and land use policies. These specify maximum densities for humans and domestic animals, but are silent on wild animals. Hence, a whole herd of deer could move into a neighborhood without preparing an EIR (Environmental Impact Report) that would be required for any analogous change of that size. The upcoming revision of the City's Comprehensive Plan would provide an opportunity to ruminate on this, but this important topic has not been included.
People concerned about the impacts of increasing deer populations will be derided as NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard). This is an outrageous misrepresentation - they are typically as concerned, if not more so, about their front yards.
The position that deer should be removed from the city will find widespread support because hostility toward deer is very real and pervasive. Advice on how to keep deer out of your yard and neighborhood appears in books from a wide range of mainstream publishers, in major newspapers, in syndicated TV shows and even occasionally on network TV.
Deer are blamed for the increasing population of mountain lions, and for enticing young, naive lions to enter populated areas. This exacerbates existing tensions about local treatment of homeless mountain lions. These lions are commonly referred to as "transients" to gloss over the fact that they are children of local lions and are being forced out of the area by the scandalous unavailability of suitable home ranges.
Fear mongering is a too common tactic to justify these attitudes, with the actions of a relative few are used to brand all deer as inherently dangerous. For example, see the above posting about deer as the most dangerous wild animal by Felix Sylvester Palmer (whose name suggests he is a housecat writing in support of his mountain lion brethren).
Any decision to remove deer from the city must take into account that, at some point, cities west of 280 are likely to protest to regional or state authorities that they have a disproportionately high deer-to-garden ratio, and that other cities should be required to provide their "fair share" of deer habitat.
If Palo Alto fails to prepare for this obvious eventuality, we may wind up being forced to provide more than our share of habitat. For example, many of the deer spotted in neighboring cities may in fact be residents of Palo Alto's Foothill Park and Arastradero Preserve who occasionally venture into those cities for their fine dining opportunities. Palo Alto has been reluctant to establish licensing programs, but this would be the best way to collect the necessary data.
The issue of deer in Palo Alto is complex and multifaceted and inevitably controversial. Why wait for a crisis to make ill-considered decisions when we can start today?
Thank you so much for the rational take on a vermin that PC liberals have allowed to propagate to the point of their own starvation and negative impact in areas where they are overpopulated.
I grew up in the Santa Cruz mountains. Mountain Lions were exterminated there long before my time, but I do remember there were hunters, and the noise of gunshots, keeping the deer population in some balance with the environment.
For the last 20 years that's all been gone, and without predators, the population has expanded to the point that Deer are starving and eating even things like Potato greens, which are toxic..... So much for trying to "grown your own".
Over the last 20 years, I've hit Deer on the highway 3 times. I'm very lucky I wasn't a causality, but 3 of my cars were. Before that, deer were rarely on the road, as their numbers were in balance with the environment.
Deer are not "Bambi". They are a native animal, but one that needs it's population kept in check by natural forces or by humans.
Liberals have failed that on both counts.
Give me a break, deer are everywhere in LAH. In fact a doe gave birth in my backyard, The previous Fall a buck took up residents in my back yard courting the doe.
I have counted as many as 22 deer eating the plants in my front yard. So what's the big deal about deer in Baron park?
These vermin are vectors for diseases such as lyme and mad cow, they will also attack children
I have to acknowledge Logical's recognition that his cars were "causalities" in his deer collisions, Doug's assessment of the PA process, and Felix' fear of deer. Felix, you need help. Doug, I still say you should run for Council. Logical, there's only so much you can control.
Here in the hills above Soquel, where I've just moved from BP, deer are part of the daily landscape, but there's still room for them, and people only freak out if someone leaves the gate open and they get the roses (they love roses).
If there are too many deer, people should remember that it was people who diminished the cougar, who prey on deer, and people who killed off the golden grizzly, who once preyed on cougar -- and it's people who kill more people than are kille by all the beasts combined. Deer may harbor ticks and protect themselves when cornered, but they really aren't the problem in this story.
I hope the deer or dears as the case may be do not get into the mule corral and make an ass of themselves. Not to worry about progeny though; that's why its called Barron Park.