We have all been told repeatedly that garbage kills bears. But that has Durango residents increasingly wondering: What would do it for deer?
There is no hunting within city limits. Dogs barely notice the deer anymore. So we need to lay it on the residents. We need Deer Smart.
(There was talk at the Herald of a Deer Tracker graphic to locate where the critters have been spotted. But then it was pointed out that there is nothing particularly informative about a solid black square.)
Bears are big, and they have fearsome claws and teeth. But the fact is they largely keep to themselves and rarely get in anybody’s face. Sure, they will rummage in a trash can from time to time, and they will happily damage a fruit tree. On balance, though, they usually seem content to stay in the woods munching on berries and the like.
Deer, on the other hand, have chosen to avoid hunters, mountain lions and the inconvenience of finding their own lunch by moving in with us and dining on flower gardens and tasty home-grown produce. It makes sense. After all, what sounds better, hanging out in scrub oak ever alert for predators or lounging on a lush lawn and nibbling on a garden in a place where firing a gun is illegal and the carnivores are on leashes?
Let’s face it, we have created deer heaven. And unless we want to make a more hellish for them, we need to change.
We could propose a draconian policy. City workers could have paint guns and shotguns. The first time a deer is found in town, it gets a blue splotch. The second strike would be red. Strike three, and there is venison for dinner at the jail.
Of course, that would never happen. City hall would never give its workers live ammunition.
It is illegal to discharge a firearm within city limits, but does that include air rifles and BB guns? Slingshots? None of those would kill a deer, but they could discourage one from eating the shrubbery.
What about bow hunters? Perhaps there could be a special permit issued to carefully selected and highly trained hunters. With that, we would also have to ban all weed killer and pesticides, not just from city parks but for homeowners as well. The meat would have to be chemical-free for the booth at the farmers’ market. Tourists might love it – genuine Durango-raised, grass-fed venison.
At some point, we might also have to deer-proof the bike lanes. A deer vs. bicycle crash could be ugly. What might help would be if we instilled a little more respect for vehicles by allowing drivers to bump deer that stand in the road – nothing harmful, just a gentle little bump.
Or, we could do what we do with the bears and alter human behavior. We now have bear-proof trash cans; we could also require homeowners to lock up their flowers and fence off their fruit trees. Unsecured vegetable gardens would be out of the question. Banning sprinklers would deprive the deer of another food source, with the added benefit of saving water.
Of course, someone would have to volunteer to monitor all these things. Deer generate no tax revenue.