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Guest commentary: End the cozy habitat for city deer

I am writing in response to Deb Bryant's commentary last week in the News-Chronicle regarding the feeding of deer. I am grateful for her "let's work together" tone on an issue that, like so many others, seems to get contentious the more people talk about it. Thank you Deb for sharing your thoughts and convictions in a manner that is respectful and invites others to be open as well.

I agree with Deb that our desire for vegetables and flowers should not trump all. I also agree that a vocal minority can ride roughshod over the opinions of many. I'm sure we all notice it more when we are the ones being ridden over.

In my view, there is a broader perspective that deserves our attention and understanding.

The biggest question at stake is not "Do we deserve to grow anything we want?"

Nor is it, "Do we have the right to encourage deer to wander through our private land?"

It is "What measures can or should we take that will lead us and the thousands of other living species that surround us to live sustainably and harmoniously?"

We will face this question more frequently as the actual "wilderness" that we are surrounded by continues to shrink as it has for decades. We may disagree what living "naturally" looks like, but it is indisputable that we must manage, to some extent, the lines of civilization and wilderness.

The current debate in Two Harbors over a town hunting season illustrates this point well: is it "natural" to hunt deer near your doorstep, or mine? For that matter, is it "natural" that deer are displaying clearly domestic habits, as they are now doing?

I can only vouch for Two Harbors, where the deer travel at all hours of the day, display a lack of fear of humans and cars, and eat garbage.

In my view we omnivores take charge of both our health and our environment by killing and eating local populations of deer. I am glad the city of Two Harbors is initiating a safe in-town hunting season this year.

For anyone who is concerned about the deer-in-town situation, or who like to feed deer, I urge you to read "The Beast in the Garden" by David Baron (2005), which documents the tragic series of events in Boulder, Colo., that began in the 1980s when the deer became domesticated in the city.  

As one reviewer put it, the book "brings out the deep contradictions in our attitudes to what we loosely call Nature. In a time when our debates about the environment so often come down to strident, simplistic claims on all sides, the intelligent complexity of Baron's book is refreshing and necessary."

This book has immediate relevance to Two Harbors and, from the sound of it, Silver Bay. For me, one of the greatest concerns about the deer getting too comfortable in town is that the predators will soon follow. In Boulder it was the mountain lions.

We have heard of sightings of coyotes, wolves, and cougars within our town limits. Of course they are coming in - they are here for the same reason that the bears eat out of dumpsters - the easy meal. The fact that these predators are overriding their strong aversion to civilization tells me that they, too, are starting to change their habits. This can happen, as Baron documents, in much shorter periods of time than has long been assumed by biological scientists.

 All this means that we need to be very intentional in defining the borders between wilderness, rural, and urban settings, and to work together to adopt responsible policies that are mindful of our fragile, essential relationships to our environment.

I think Two Harbors should follow Silver Bay's precedent and strictly enforce the ban on feeding any wild animals within town limits.

Birds? I'll leave that one for another opinionated citizen.