Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank’s recent descent into self-admitted “eco-vigilantism” would be comical if it wasn’t so deadly serious (see “I bought a gun – and I intend to use it”).
Yes, deer are naturally filling an ecosystem niche, but through no fault of their own. Humans have remade their landscape, crowding them out of their native habitat through population growth and sprawl, bringing invasives into the picture while removing predators. But don’t shoot the deer, as they are just the innocent messengers.
We could laugh at Milbank’s feeble attempt at confronting a midlife crisis brought on by having the means necessary to become landed gentry. He bought a high-powered rifle and, having taken an online class, now knows the stock from a barrel – literally which end of the gun is which. Great! If I were a neighbor, I’d be terrified by him playing Elmer Fudd with his 30-06 “within earshot” of homes.
I also fear for his family. Their safety has just taken a huge hit with a gun in the house; their lives are now in peril, as is his – whether he shoots himself accidently or on purpose, or simply falls out of his tree blind (look up the data on all such scenarios).
Gardens and forests shouldn’t be war zones where people shoot deer. It’s humans who are the ecological disaster, not “Bambi.” Milbank can enhance his property by planting deer-resistant native shrubs, flowers and trees; such options abound at any good garden center. He can further deter deer by using proven repellents or by erecting a fence around the areas that he feels are being disturbed.
And if Milbank is truly concerned about how human-introduced invasives are threatening native habitat, he can turn in his gun and take up a pair of shears and a shovel and join a community group dedicated to restoring public lands. I suggest he satisfy his nascent blood lust by taking on the Japanese Bayberry (Berberis thunbergii), a prickly invasive that harbors rodents carrying the Lyme spirochete.
Milbank’s column reminds me of what Sirius Black said of Severus Snape in “Harry Potter.” “Once again you’ve put your keen and penetrating mind to the task and as usual come to the wrong conclusion!”
Rather than hear Milbank prattle on about taking foolish action with a gun, I’d rather read about how he’s learned to live with deer and to protect our shared environment with a thoughtful approach to conservation that includes eradicating invasives, replanting natives (with measures to exclude deer from the most sensitive plantings) and educating himself and the public about the need to restore predators to create a balanced, self-regulating and sustaining ecosystem.