Sunday, June 30, 2013

Iain Hunter: Executing Deer Not Dignified Behaviour

Iain Hunter / Times Colonist
June 30, 2013

All species react to danger because they must. Man reacts to inconveniences because he may.
Dandelion reminded me of that. She was a dark-eyed young doe on the path to the vegetable garden, and when I advanced, she stood her ground, which I’d thought was my ground, and flicked one ear. Nothing else.
She seemed to be waiting for me to say something, so I did:
“Welcome to my garden, sweetie. But you’re really not wanted here. As your name implies, you’re an invasive species, and I say this in the kindest possible way, but you should go now.”
She nodded — I swear she did — and took one dainty step back. The setting sun behind traced the veins in her ears, her delicate nostrils flared and we stood together, becalmed, beholding.
This encounter, I’m ashamed to say, has not been usual this spring. Marauding deer in twos and threes and fours have skipped down the driveway, hopped over futile fences and leaped over the rockery with gay abandon.
They’ve chomped the tree peonies, ravaged the roses, nipped off the flowers of the Iberian cranesbill as soon as they appeared, and even nibbled at the new blackberry shoots.
When I’ve caught them, I’ve rushed at them waving my arms and howling like a gorilla in heat and blowing a deafening device that I understand has been banned at organized sporting events.
It was my neighbour, Larry, who after watching these territorial displays, observed that the deer, albeit in retreat, showed more dignity than did I in driving them off.
If any being is concerned with dignity, it should be the human kind, shouldn’t it — nature’s apex predator, a being holding dominion over all others with biblical sanction?
Some in my community have chosen more dignified techniques to drive deer away, such as movement-activated sprinklers and chemical repellants.
But individual efforts are not good enough, apparently.
Deer are considered, even by those who deliberately grow what they like most to eat, a municipal and regional problem.
And, of course, when public money is called for, cheapest is best. Culls have been approved elsewhere and are now under consideration by the mayor and corporation of Oak Bay, where Dandelion roams unaware of proposals to trap and cage her overnight and put a bolt through her head at sunup.
Would that collective, officially approved solution be any more dignified than my making a dervish-like spectacle of myself in trying to drive off my plants’ predators?
How would this crude execution bestow dignity — in the sense of worth or honour — on those on whose behalf it would be carried out?
In times of crisis, as this seems to be, there isn’t time to consider how collective decisions reflect on those making them or those on behalf of whom they’re made.
Human beings are as expert at getting rid of nuisances as they are at creating them — souls need not be engaged.
I wonder if Dandelion knows that. I wonder if she thinks, like Holly in Watership Down, that “men will never rest ’til they’ve spoiled the earth and destroyed the animals.”
I’ve done my best to talk to that doe as a member of one invasive species to a member of another. I want her to know that I want to get on with her as best I can.
I haven’t chased her away anymore. I’ve tried to encourage her to eat plants that matter to me less than others, or to stick to those that will survive her browsing. She hasn’t seemed to get it.
I haven’t seen Dandelion lately. I miss her gazing from the bottom of the garden as if sizing up the bush for a birthing place. I hoped she’d stay.
There’s a lot of rubbish talked about the danger posed by deer. Carcasses by the roadside show where real danger lies.
“Animals don’t behave like men,” says a Watership Down rabbit. “If they have to fight, they fight; and if they have to kill they kill. But they don’t sit down and set their wits to devise ways of spoiling other creatures’ lives and hurting them.
“They have dignity and animality.”
© Copyright 2013

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