Soon enough, Bambi and extended family might not have it as good, at least in Little Rock. Right now, the deer, if not the antelope, play anywhere they want, traffic or no traffic. And dine where they want. And, at the most, they might have to listen to a little lap dog tearing up the porch while they graze on the potted plants or tomato garden. Deer don't even leave a 10 percent tip.
The number of whitetail deer living in the city limits is growing, and the city board might have the best answer: a controlled hunt.
On July 16, the state's Game & Fish Commission will present a couple of plans on a controlled hunt, and city directors will have options. What might not be an option: doing nothing.
"You just need to recognize there's a problem," said city director Dean Kumpuris. "We have to get it down to a maintainable number of deer here."
The problem isn't just that deer eat where they want without paying, like the mob. If folks wanted to keep deer out of their side-yard mustard greens, there are neat sprays sold at the farmers' market that will drive them off. The bigger problem is that they tend to run through traffic. Especially in the fall when bucks are chasing does, a deer, a female deer. Anybody who's lived in rural Arkansas has stories about run-ins with deer, and we don't mean figuratively. The things can cause damage, even deadly damage. Then there are other problems associated with a large deer herd, such as disease-carrying ticks and the damage to well-manicured lawns.
Good-hearted folks who feed these storybook critters--they are indeed beautiful--only worsen the problem.
Several cities in Arkansas have tried controlled hunts in the past. There is even a way to designate a city as a deer camp, so that city officials can decide who hunts, how long, and where. We vaguely remember Eureka Springs trying this out several years ago. Our considered editorial opinion: The Game & Fish Commission should be in charge, somehow. The experts there have proven over the (many) years that they know how to handle wildlife management. Our trust in them is marrow deep. We believe they could provide the parameters and hunters would provide the discretion.
Ah, and there might be the rub. Or the scrape.
We imagine that folks in Little Rock's greener subdivisions don't want wounded deer stumbling through their backyards and into their children's pools. But although something like that is always possible--even today, after a run-in with a car--we imagine that scenario would be rare. Why? Because we know bow hunters.
Anybody who's spent any time at a deer club knows the story: The archers who get to the camp a month early spot a large buck, but it was behind a bush so he couldn't get a clear shot. Or the doe was trotting along, and never stopped broad-sides, so he let it pass. Or his crossbow range is 30 steps, and this deer was a few steps too far. Archers seem to be the most careful of hunters. They get one shot a day, if that, so they make it count.
Also, as an Extra Added Bonus, city residents still not convinced should understand this: There is ample precedent for such hunts. Anybody with doubts about safety or general aesthetics can call somebody in one of the other cities in Arkansas that have such hunts. The director of Russellville's animal shelter says hunters in his city follow an "out of sight, out of mind" approach. "I guarantee most people don't know we have an urban deer hunting program," he said.
Any hunter in Little Rock would have to get the permission of the land owner before hunting on private property. The city can declare parks off-limits. City directors might even prefer the scenario of enrolling in the state's Urban Deer Hunt Program, which requires hunters to complete an education course, a shooting proficiency exam and attend an orientation.
Nobody is re-inventing the crossbow here. For years, other cities have issued permits for these hunts to maintain a balance between deer herds and that other troublesome species, homo sapiens.
Deer can't be evicted. They have to be driven away, or put away. Without action, this problem is only going to get worse. Thankfully, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who'd volunteer to help solve it, plus pay for hunting licenses. If the city directors will only allow them.
Editorial on 07/09/2019
Print Headline: No more free lunch