NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 8, 2005

Unchecked by predators, deer populations are exploding in a way that is profoundly unnatural and that is destroying the ecosystem in many parts of the country. According to Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times, we should bring back hunting and reestablish a balance in the natural world.

In a wilderness area, there might be 10 deer per square mile, but in parts of New Jersey, there are up to 200 per square mile. The exploding deer populations are harming humans, says Kristof:

  • More Americans are killed by deer each year than by any other large American mammal, including bears, cougars and wolves.
  • A study for the insurance industry estimated that deer kill 150 people a year in car crashes nationwide and cause $1 billion in damages.
  • Ticks and Lyme disease, a more indirect effect from deer, also kill humans.

Agreeing on a solution for controlling deer populations and protecting humans has proven difficult. These days, among the university-educated crowd in the cities, hunting is viewed as barbaric. Towns in New York and New Jersey are talking about using birth control to keep deer populations down, although deer contraception has not been very successful. Meanwhile, some towns are paying big bucks, taking out contracts on deer through discreet private companies.

Kristof says this is ridiculous. We have an environmental imbalance caused in part by the decline of hunting, he says. Humans first wiped out certain predators -- like wolves and cougars -- but then expected their own role as predators to sustain a rough ecological balance.

The humane and green solution, says Kristof, is to encourage hunting, and many environmentalists agree. Deer are not pets, and many find hunting them is preferable to letting deer die of hunger and disease. Furthermore, hunting connects people with the outdoors and creates a broader constituency for wilderness preservation.

For text: Nicholas D. Kristof, "For Environmental Balance, Pick Up a Rifle," New York Times, December 4, 2005.

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