Aldo Leopold once stated “We shall never achieve harmony with land, any more than we shall achieve absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations, the important thing is not to achieve but to strive.” A fitting quote following Independence Day, I would think. Being this is an outdoors column, I will touch more to the first part of the quote.
First though, a little background on Leopold is in order. He is considered the father of wildlife conservation. Rightly so, he was Professor of Game Management at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the first such professorship in Wildlife Conservation. The reason I am bringing Leopold up is not to do a biography, but to touch today’s issues with his field of study.
The deer population not only grows at a staggering rate, but deer are very adaptive to our current human lifestyles. For instance, without outside mortality influences, a single breeding pair of deer can expand to as many as 40 deer in just 7 years. Couple that with the urban sprawl of our cities and communities, and deer can become a nuisance and even dangerous to humans. As deer feel pressures in their natural habitats they often will find their ways into our neighborhoods seeking safe shelter, food, and water. This is a major reason North Carolina started the Urban Archery Deer Season following the regular gun season. Depredation permits began as a way for farmers to help control herd populations so crops would not be destroyed. Now it is common for a depredation permit to be issued to neighborhoods and communities where deer are eating landscaping flora or creating unsafe habitats.
In the early history of hunting, before studies were done, we either hunted the animals to endangerment or near extinction, or we practiced wildlife preservation, where we would not touch an animal, often times even removing any natural predators from an area in order to preserve the species. This brings me to another Leopold quote. “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” We found out too much of either could destroy a species, and wildlife management began working.
One of the major controls of wildlife is with hunting. As hunters, we abide by limits on game. These limits are set by biologists and wildlife management based on studies that allow the game animals a healthy population in which to reproduce yet keep them in check so as not to overproduce. When a permit is given by Wildlife Resources, it follows a study where the particular game animal is counted and given an estimated number in the herd. From there a certain number of permits are issued. A number of groups offer services to help in the control of game animals. For instance, trappers may be used in wetland areas where beaver overpopulation may occur. One group in North Carolina sprung up from the North Carolina Bowhunters Association (NCBA) to primarily control deer. After seeing successful public and private deer management programs in other states such as Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, NCBA President Ramon Bell looked into a program the NCBA could offer as a free service to communities hampered by deer overpopulation and intrusion. The Bowhunter Certification and Referral Service was created and introduced. “The BCRS program is one of the most successful programs the NCBA has ever embarked upon. In these first five years, we have successfully served over 25 separate landowner agreements. Over half of these are still active. The BCRS program is supporting itself and sending out a very positive bowhunting message to the citizens and landowners of North Carolina, and it is still growing,” states Ramon Bell.
It is imperative to control the populations and boundaries of our natural game resources, otherwise nature will overpopulate causing disease, famine, and an intrusion into other species ability to live at a natural level. That brings us to one last quote from Aldo Leopold, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” As humans are the stewards to the land God has granted us, we must be the ones to tend to the control of the land as well.