Dithering over deer disastrous

| Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, 8:59 p.m.

Ignorance breeds inaction. And more deer. And plenty of unforeseen consequences. Just look at Mt. Lebanon or any tightly packed suburban town choosing not to cull its exploding deer population.

The South Hills community is engaged in a mind-numbingly protracted and intellectually vapid debate over whether to reduce its deer herd. To say the deer have become a “problem” is a gross understatement; they have become a major threat to public safety.

In the year ended last month, there were nearly 150 vehicle-deer collisions in Mt. Lebanon. That's almost three a week. The local gendarmes once offered pointers on the proper way to run over a deer (seriously).

In some neighborhoods, there are deer stampedes (and that's no hyperbole). They've chased children. Pets, too (pets the local government has urged residents to sic on the deer to scare them off).

And the ever-growing number of deer are eating anything and everything. Contrary to popular myth, it's not about “eating rich peoples' la-tee-da plantings”; the community's ecosystem is being seriously compromised.

Mt. Lebanon hasn't culled its deer in nearly five years. Four ruts later, lots more deer. Figure on a fifth rut in the fall of 2013 because the board of commissioners has only agreed to consider studying a possible study of the deer population to then study if a culling is necessary. Expect a study of the consideration of a study for a possible study of a study to cull to be not far behind.

Deer are rutting once again in Mt. Lebanon. Just the past week at dusk on my Mt. Lebanon street — what we call Catalpa Place Flats — a handful of males, obviously unable to get stools at The Saloon, a popular local watering hole, were chasing after a half-dozen females.

They were running down the street, the sidewalk and into people's driveways; one amorous pair (he, swaggering, she, in stiletto hooves) appeared to exit someone's garage (the glow of the “after” cigarettes they were smoking gave them away).

The commissioners have been swayed thus far to leave deer enough alone by a number of factions.

There are the nature lovers who feel we humans have encroached on the deer habitat and nothing should be done. They blame bird feeders and gardens and those who are so misguided that they landscape their yards.

Others have said they want to spare their young children from the horrid spectacle of seeing wild animals killed. One can only suppose they block NatGeo from their televisions. And they apparently have no problem letting their children receive their sex education courses in the backyard. Ahem.

Yet others claim culling is dangerous. To the deer, yes, but controlled hunts have an exceptional safety record.

Still others — supposed urban deer management “experts” — argue that culling the herd will only have the perverse effect of leaving more vegetation that will mean more food for the surviving deer and a better appetite for breeding. Talk about perverse logic.

And as bad as Mt. Lebanon's deer problem is, unchecked, it can only invite worse problems.

Chronic wasting disease has been reported in Pennsylvania. So many deer packed into such a small urban area would be a ripe transmission ground for the cruel killer.

And just last week, there was a report that a coyote was suspected of killing a family dog in the North Hills. It's only a matter of time before coyotes find a scrumptious feeding ground in Mt. Lebanon.

Then what will Mt. Lebanon do — still dither over a controlled deer hunt followed by new dithering over a controlled coyote hunt?

Colin McNickle is Trib Total Media's director of editorial pages (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

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