Kill or be killed

Every year I hear the same old story about deer hunting. Some call it murder and some call it “survival of the fittest”. Some call it dangerous while others say it is safe when done properly. The truth is, hunters that follow the rules and regulations are a natural and important part of the wildlife management system.  Hunting is an important balance between man and beast.

Although the hunting concept may seem to be dangerous, responsible hunters can make a difference. Over 90 percent of all hunting accidents are usually the hunter or a member of his or her party. Hunters that have been trained properly and follow safe hunting practices minimize this risk.

If hunting were not allowed, then the entire population of deer would suffer. When a deer is shot, it is usually a quick and painless death. Starvation is a slow process of fat depletion and physical weakening. Imagine hundreds of deer that have not eaten in days. They are running off of their last depleting fat cells around their kidneys and intestines. Their coats begin to become looser and rougher, and their bone marrow begins to turn from off-white to red and jelly-like. The deer are now very skinny and weak. They begin to stagger and lose hope, so they curl up and act lethargic, waiting to die. This process can be avoided with careful management of wildlife by allowing more predators to hunt the weak and enough hunters to help balance the ecosystem.

If there are not enough predators to regulate the deer and other herbivores, human hunters are necessary; when deer populations get too large, negative effects are thrust upon both humans and non-humans. Humans are impacted by deer/vehicle collisions as well as agricultural damage. Deer/vehicle collisions can be fatal to both the deer and the people in the vehicle. Farmers are affected when deer resort to feeding on their crops when starvation strengthens among the deer population. Overpopulation among deer also adversely affects wildlife. As hunger increases and food runs out, the bark is stripped from trees which makes the trees more susceptible to disease. Vegetation suffers from over browsing, thus all animals which would normally feed on the vegetation would suffer. If the deer population had been controlled by hunters, starvation and over browsing would be avoided and potential loss of human lives averted.

There is a choice that needs to be made. The deer can starve, vegetation can suffer, and human lives can be put at risk or hunting can be taken advantage of when necessary to control deer populations. Hunters can help create healthy deer populations. When hunting is managed by caring people whose primary goal is to help the plants and animals, everyone prospers. The choice seems simple — wildlife management is crucial.

Although I have never hunted deer and have no inclination to do so, it is important to allow some hunters to help maintain balance. Some people may feel that we should leave animals alone and give them a safe place to live. Does this mean we shouldn’t be allowed to fish? Fish are animals too.

Many people allow raccoons to do as they please but they are nothing more than nuisance animals. It is legal to kill a nuisance raccoon if you hold a valid hunting license when it is done by a humane method. The greatest problem with raccoons is diseases. Raccoons are known to carry a variety of diseases. Most of these are harmless to them and to people, but a few, such as distemper, can kill raccoons when their populations get too dense. These diseases also can infect pets that are not vaccinated. Rabies is another such disease. The risk of rabies is small but should never be taken lightly.

Raccoons are not fussy about their choice of food. Although classified as a carnivore, the raccoon eats as much or more plant matter as animal matter during the year. When fruits, acorns, vegetables, and seeds are ripe and available, they will feed heavily on them. At other times and places, they will specialize in eggs, insects, crayfish, frogs, fish, and small mammals. They’ll eat dead animals that they encounter; they’ll raid bird feeders and pet food bowls when they’re kept full, and they’ll check out garbage cans that aren’t secured. Giving them a safe place to live because they’re “so cute” isn’t the best way to maintain balance in the wilderness.

There are many times when hunting is the only way to preserve the quality of the woodlands. Wildlife management is crucial and hunting is a big part of it. For those of you that think hunting is murder, go have a salad. As for the rest of you, happy hunting!

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