I first began blogging at Posterous. Since they are shutting down in April, I decided to move the few posts I had on that site to this blog. This was originally posted October 10, 2009.
I went to Shawnee Mission Park today thinking I would take some pictures of the fall colors. Plans changed quickly though when I pulled in and immediately saw six deer grazing. The trees could have been blue with pink polka dots for all I cared! I changed my goal to seeing how many deer I could spot.
Shawnee Mission Park is situated in both Shawnee and Lenexa, Kansas. It is 1250 acres, or just under two square miles. There is an overpopulation of deer in the park. Estimates are about 200 deer per square mile. According to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Shawnee Mission Park has the highest concentration of deer in the state of Kansas, possibly even the country. Unfortunately, this has led to problems with the biodiversity of the park. There's also a fear of the ticks associated with deer and the diseases they carry. Soon, the deer will start to become sick because of the overpopulation.
To address this problem, the Park and Recreation Commissioners have held many discussions and received advice from several experts. They came to the conclusion that the safest, most cost efficient and most humane way to deal with the problem was to cull the herd. To do so, they will bring in police sharpshooters after park hours to begin the thinning of the herd. They hope to get the deer down to around 50 per square mile. This will occur any day now, although officials will not say exactly when, for safety reasons. It has not been fully decided what will be done with the deer that are killed, but there is a lot of talk about donating the meat to families in need.
This has caused much discussion and even protest in the community. Some say the plan is cruel. As much as I hate to see an animal killed, I hate even more to have an animal get sick and suffer. I don't like to think about animals being killed for sport, but this is different. There is a real need for the deer overpopulation problem to be dealt with, not just for the sake of the deer, but for the entire ecosystem of the park and surrounding area.
I, of course, don't have to shoot the deer myself. I know I wouldn't be able to do it (not to mention, my firearms skills are not good enough). I can just read about it in the paper or watch a story on the news. My brain can override my emotions about the deer and I can tell myself that this is the best thing for the park and all that dwell there. I just wonder, though, how many of the 31 deer that I spotted today will survive the hunt. The deer are not fearful of humans. Will they run away from the hunters? I was able to get very close to them and although they might stop grazing to look up at me, they did not run away. I tell myself that this in itself is another problem. The deer aren't wild enough any more. But, for today, I enjoyed the fact that I was able to watch them so closely. Who knows how easy it will be to spot them in the future.