Deer dilemma not as tough as it seems

Deer are dying in Solon as sharpshooters look to cut a 1,200-deer herd in half. Environmentalists and animal rights activists have vocalized their outrage, calling the practice of killing innocent deer cruel and heartless.

The Plain Dealer has publicized the event, running photos of “cute deer” on the front page juxtaposed to a cold, heartless sharpshooter toting a high-powered rifle in a treestand.

Is the process cold and heartless? Indeed. But allowing a rampant population of whitetailed deer to exhaust its resources and starve itself to death isn’t any more appealing. Starvation is not pretty.

Deer, in abundance, destroy any vegetation they can get their mouths on. Residents complain about perennials and vegetable gardens besieged by rampant deer. Problems occur on the road as well. As soon as dawn or dusk rolls around, many of us are constantly waiting for a wayward deer to dart across the road, making driving dangerous.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has made a grim process as productive as possible. The deer are killed quickly and effectively, and the meat is saved and processed. The sharpshooters go as far as quickly wrapping the slain deer’s heads in plastic bags to prevent blood from staining the ground.

But opponents tout the humane use of contraceptives to curb the deer population. According to The Plain Dealer, there have been well-documented studies using deer birth control — and it works. Does are shot with 3-inch darts containing the serum, and dye marks those does that won’t be expecting. Costwise, contraceptive measures are more cost-effective. The serum and dart are $21.50 a crack as opposed to the $500 price tag of shooting and processing one deer.

But the problem is immediacy. Contraceptives take years to affect the environment. Meanwhile, communities would be forced to live with a pest problem and deer live with starvation, as they wait for contraceptive measures to take effect.

The other problem is deer can be ramblers. It’s difficult to patrol acre upon acre of communities without physical boundaries. With current technology, deer must be darted with the contraceptive on a yearly basis. Deer herds aren’t thinned on a yearly basis.

The only viable solution should involve a combination of the two. Sharpshooters can be used to curb the immediate overpopulation as we slowly switch from kill to contraceptives. As does have fewer and fewer offspring and technology improves, letting contraceptives work for more than a year, we will no longer need to employ sharpshooters — a win-win situation for animal-lovers and gardeners alike.

Private hunting would still be legal, so the approximately 450,000 Ohio deer hunters enjoying the kill would not be disappointed.

Hunters and animal rights activists are at each others’ throats when dealing with wildlife. But with the compromise, they can reach common ground knowing the deer population can remain at a comfortable level, allowing all to enjoy this natural resource.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.