"What's to know and what's to do?" they ask. "You just buy the land and keep the hunters out, and everything works out great."
Well, maybe not.
Proof can be seen at the wildlife "sanctuary" managed by the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) at Baronsdown in Somerset, U.K. The romantics at the League got a big bequest some time back, and put it into acquiring 225 acres which they decided to use as a "deer sanctuary."
The first thing they did, of course, was put up signs to keep hunters out.
Guess what happened then? Well, for starters, the deer population skyrocketed and the deer started stripping all the vegetation from the forests and fields.
So what did the folks at LACS do then? That's right -- they began feeding the deer in winter.
Of coure even more deer showed up, and soon an area of just 225 acres had more than 300 deer on it.
The animals, still hungry and now even more overcrowded, began eating each others foeces, thereby spreading flukes and worms across the entire herd.
Reports that the deer were sick were summarily dismissed by the League Against Cruel Sport's know-nothing spokesperson who said "We really don't accept there's a problem."
What happened next was as predictable as the tides: Animals already crowded and stressed got weaker, setting the stage for a more serious kind of pathology to ride in and take the herd. This time it was tuberculosis.
The end result: about one-third of the Baronsdown deer herd died in a single year, and more deer deaths followed in subsequent years.
Now down to about 150 deer, the Baronsdown herd is still overcrowded and emaciated as the vegetation has never had a chance to recover.
In fact, the deer herd at Baronsdown is so overcrowded and sick that regular citizens are now stopping by the road to get out of their cars in order to engage in mercy killings of weak and stunned animals staggering near the fence line.
Don't believe it? Well, you can watch the video taken on LACs land right here -- just click below, or go to the link.
None of this is entirely new, of course. Management of the Baronsdown deer has been called into question for many years, and studies have show that the herd is in very poor shape.
The British Deer Society, which is not a hunting group, tried to work with LACS on the quiet and keep herd management issues separate from the hunting debate, but LACS has continued to ignore reality and at last Veterinary Advisor Peter Green decided he had to speak out. He has described what is going on at Baronsdown in plain and simple language:
"During a two hour period some fifty red deer were carefully observed; none were in good condition. Many were judged to be poor and several were classed as emaciated. Many were showing signs of enteritis [diarrhoea] and loose foeces were widespread on the ground. One yearling staggie in poor condition was too weak to jump a sheep fence."
Is there a message in all this? There certainly is. That message is that wildlife management issues should be left to folks who actually have degrees in wildlife management, and not to philosophers, unemployed anarchists, and suburban matrons.
If there is good news, it is this: The League Against Cruel Sports does not own or control very much land, and most deer herds in the U.K. are under professional management and subject to regulated hunting. As a result, the Countryside Alliance reports, "There are more deer in the U.K. now that at any time since the Norman conquest."
Less we think stupid-on-a-stick deer management is confined to the other side of the Atlantic, however, it's worth remembering that we have our share of know-nothing Animal Rights lunatics.
In a cover piece for Audubon magazine entitled "Wanted: More Hunters," Ted Williams describes what the Crane Estate, 30 miles north of Boston, looked like in the early 1980s when roughly 400 white-tailed deer -- 340 more than carrying capacity -- had denuded 2,000 acres fragile acres along the coast following a hunting ban:
"There wasn't a scrap of green to the height of a saddle horn. One of the last undeveloped barrier-beach complexes in the East had been shorn of native plants. Dunes were blowing away. The property, owned by the Trustees of Reservations, was supposed to be a wildlife refuge, yet the deer had eliminated wildlife that rear young and/or find cover in midlevel vegetation. Each winter most of the fawns died because they couldn't reach the browse line. In their weakened condition adults were being eaten from the outside in by dogs, and from the inside out by parasites. Their skin stretched across their ribs like cloth on Conestoga wagons."
So what are the options? Returning to an ancient balance between large ungulates and top-end predators is not in the offering. Marauding wolf packs are not going to be introduced into the sheep country that is Somerset, anymore than they are going to be introduced into the landscape of suburban Boston.
What this means is that the only real choice for deer, either at Baronsdown or in Boston, is between a miserable life and slow death by starvation and disease, or a healthy life and sudden death that comes out of the blue. One method we would not wish on our enemies, while the other we pray for ourselves.
What will we choose for the deer? Let us choose carefully.