Overpopulation of deer in the City of Williamsburg is a problem the locality and Colonial Williamsburg are trying to manage, despite some opposition.
The city and CW are taking the correct steps.
As Cortney Langley's recent three-part series pointed out, deer are insatiable. They are not predators, so they don't play a role in controlling other animal populations.
The vegetation deer consume is also the food supply and cover to other species. Locally, rare plant species in College Woods have disappeared, as have several varieties of birds that feed on the same plants as the deer.
As Smithsonian Institute research scientist William McShea pointed out in our series, deer will eat themselves out of their homes. Oak saplings are scalped, which harms regeneration and reduces the supply of acorns, the main food source for deer.
But many people hold romanticized views of deer that makes them sqeuamish about culling programs. As Dan Cristol, a biologist at the College of William and Mary, explained in a 2012 op ed in the New York Times -- "Bambi must go."
Cristol is decidedly on the side of the birds (he writes a monthly column on birding for the Gazette). Periodically he's called for a similar fate to befall cats, which he blames for harming bird populations.
Some neighbors in Holly Hills agree deer need to be culled, but favor shotgun hunts over archers. The facts clearly favor neither side: The distance an arrow can fly is considerably longer than a blast of buckshot, but deer will fall sooner from a gun wound.
The distance the deer travels after the wound is negligible, according to Todd Engelmeyer, district biologist for Virginia's Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. And the archery hunts held in Williamsburg are done from tree stands, with shots mostly from distances of 25-30 yards. A skilled archer can take a doe without harming another deer nearby. Buckshot spreads indiscriminately.
Gazette readers have also offered their opinions, including several comments in this edition's Last Word.
The most intriguing said Williamsburg should seize on the ingenuity of farmers in New Zealand. They opted to erect fences, with the idea of containing deer herds rather than excluding them. The concept led to a multi-million dollar industry providing venison to Europe. One problem: Deer farming is currently illegal in Virginia.
Maybe that should change.
The New Zealand deer farming industry is less than 50 years old. In 2011, the most recent statistics available on the New Zealand Deer Farmers Association website, some 1.1 million deer were farmed by 2,800 farmers. Total revenue for the industry that year was $278 million in New Zealand dollars, equivalent to $231 million U.S.
Farming might also be a way to control diseases borne by deer ticks.
The website Science Daily reported on babesiosis in November 2012, citing research from the Yale School of Public Health. Cases in the northeast, specifically Connecticut, grew from 3 to 100 annually in a span of 20 years.
Eradicating deer is certainly not the answer. They are a viable food source, and regulated hunts have supplied venison to the needy. Managing the herds will keep the deer healthy, and improve the health of other plants and wildlife.