I am not a fan of hunting. I love animals, especially mammals and birds; I can’t even kill a mouse. But I eat meat, so I have no high moral podium from which to preach. Hunted animals probably live better lives than the animals that I eat despite their “humanely raised” designation.
It is also easy to see the value of hunting. All that you need is to compare my previous hometown of Morristown, NJ to the Eastern Shore.
Due to suburban sprawl, there is no hunting in that area of NJ; and the impact on wildlife is devastating.
Lacking predators (except cars), deer have devoured the landscape. The natural woodland undergrowth has been decimated. Landscape plantings are limited to three mediocre deer-resistant bushes, a handful of annuals and a half dozen ferns and perennials. Anyone who attempts to go outside these species must enclose their garden within a 6’ high spiked fence. We tried all manner of preventatives: sprays, human hair, even dogs; but nothing worked.
The deer stare us down when we run toward them. A deer herd stomped my neighbor’s miniature poodle to death. Desperate, my husband and I tried paint guns; but the yellow and blue splattered deer continued to savor our carefully crafted landscape. Our adopted German Shepherd kept them at bay until we went on vacation. We returned to an empty landscape.
Our health was also impacted, I had Lyme disease three times, my daughter twice, and my husband once.
In NJ, the Canada geese no longer migrate and have produced a carpet of excrement in all parks, golf courses, and playgrounds. Canada geese attack anyone who goes near their nest. Ecologists have tried coating their eggs with oil; only to discover after several weeks they just laid more eggs.
One of the first things that I noticed when I moved to the Eastern Shore was the different behavior of wildlife. On the Eastern Shore, they quickly retreat when alerted to humans.
Hunting serves to keep the population down; and it creates what scientists call a Landscape of Fear. Apex predators alter the behavior of their prey, preventing overgrazing and encroachment while reducing fertility rates. Hunters, the Eastern Shore’s apex predators, control both population and ecosystems.
Fall is approaching and soon the deer and wild turkey that I occasionally spy will retreat to their hiding places. And the sharp crack and boom of powerful guns will occasionally rip through the cool air. And I am grateful that everyone doesn’t see the world through my lens.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.