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Saturday essay: Counting deer

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Friday, June 28, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

If the survey was accurate, the just-born fawn bedding down in the thick ivy behind the neighbor's house represents, in the least, Mt. Lebanon's 343rd deer in at least 117 groups.

That's a bit misleading, of course, given that the thermal aerial survey that Vision Air Research used to count the deer and their groupings was conducted four months ago, on the evening of Feb. 25. Deer being deer, well, they reproduce. Whether the birth rate has outpaced the death rate over the last four months — by natural causes, predator or automobile — is hard to factor.

But by any calculation, that's a lot of deer for Mt. Lebanon's 6.06 square miles of urbanized suburbia — close to 57 deer per square mile. It's a four-fold increase from 2006. And that's a recipe for lots of problems.

Hundreds of deer “incidents” have been reported over the past two years alone in the South Hills community, including car-deer accidents. Deer have taken to running in packs. Kids have been chased. Walkers have been challenged. And not just in parks, parklets or yards. We're talking on the streets.

The debate is raging over “options.” Mt. Lebanon hasn't culled its deer herd in six years. Deer lovers say leave deer enough alone. More reasoned folks know the dangers — everything from damaging the eco-balance of the flora to, if the deer become injured and diseased, inviting even more unsavory fauna (think coyotes), to more roadkill, to, God forbid, someone dying in a close encounter of the deer kind.

Doing nothing would be the reckless “option.”

­— Colin McNickle

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