I write the words to share what my eyes see and my heart feels
Once again, the cold of winter brings out the best, and/or, the best intentions, of many people. While the whitetail deer population is pretty noticeable all year round, perhaps in some places or at some residencies, more than others, they are even more obvious during the winter months. They may be around somewhat more scavenging for food but also more readily seen because their natural camouflage isn’t conducive to white snowy backgrounds.
Based on what I have observed being discussed in social media conversations, many well intentioned people feel that the deer are starving and so are taking matters into their own hands. While the deer presence has increased and their mobility and visibility may make it seem that way, they are not completely without sustenance, and are not starving. Although it may not be obvious to the casual “back yard” observer, there is sufficient fodder available to the deer, as it has been for ages. There are many places, although not visible or obvious to us, that the deer can and will forage, if necessary. Their innate wildlife instincts, unless replaced lately by some form of domestication will see them through even the harshest of winter weather conditions. The deer can, and will, paw through the snow to get to the grasses in the fields, and somewhat sadly, but gladly as we can observe them, in our yards.
In a sense, wildlife in general, and deer may take the easy way out, as do many of us, and eat what is most readily available to them, to some degree. I say to some degree because the deer’s dietary requirements adapt and change with the seasons. They may more readily eat the tender shoots of treelike vegetation than the leaves. Apple tree branch stems and shoots are a delicacy over grass, sometimes even in, or especially in, the springtime. If you have noticed, bales, and especially the larger round hales, left in the fields go untouched.
Lately I have seen Facebook friends publicly commenting about feeling sorry for the deer and so accordingly therefore feeding them. It is illegal to feed deer at any time, unless of course you live in Sullivan County (Catskill area). That is the only place in New York State where it is legal to feed deer in the winter. I would think twice about publicly admitting doing what you feel is the humanitarian thing to do. Maybe only one in a million people would report you, but that one may be your neighbor, or someone who holds a grudge.
There is a somewhat popularly held belief that the “local” presence of deer infestation visiting back yards in larger numbers is due to increased deer population and decreased deer hunting. This isn’t necessarily so. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) closely monitors deer population and periodically makes changes to maintain and ensure a balance of population and sustainability, by regulating the seasons and the licenses and permits issued. There are special permits available to farm, and other, landowners, through the DEC, if deer damage to crops and properties is untenable.
Rampant deforestation attributed to urbanization and increasing mankind population growth, coupled with uncontrolled hunting nearly wiped out the deer population reducing it by 95%. During the 19th century. Deer management, control and licensing built the population back up over the decades to its current levels. Despite various environmental challenges, herd infestation of diseases etc. our deer population has grown to and stabilized throughout the Country with the New York population hanging right around the 1,000,000 deer level over the past few decades. The population in the year 2000 was at approximately that level. The 2020 population was 1,000,000 prior to hunting season with a hunting harvest of 253000 deer. Due to a relatively mild year the 2021 deer population increased to 1.2 million. I was unable to find the complete harvest tally for this year as given the various hunting options, the latest data is likely not yet available.
Allegany, Cattaraugus, and Steuben counties are perennial state leaders in annual deer take. Allegany County has been mentioned in various gaming books as the “Trophy Deer” mecca. I gave up my own deer hunting activities several years ago. Venison, with the exception of one particular cut and preparation, is not my favorite meal. Shooting a deer and not using the meat myself just doesn’t seem right and recalls another of those memorable things my former neighbor and father figure, Charlie Young told me. He said: “Don’t kill it or cut it if you aren’t going to eat it or feed it to something.” That comment was made following a discussion regarding mowing his lawns. I had asked if I could mow his fields beside and across from my house after he was finished haying, as I enjoyed mowing and thought it would look nice. He let me make “lawn” there but with the caveat that I had to wait until after his second hay cutting for the cows that he raised. A couple of years later he plowed up a plot in the adjacent “field/yard” so I could enlarge my garden space.
Going back to an earlier comment about deer eating what was “readily available to them.” I fear that we are somewhat creating or enhancing the problem of the deer straying into our yards much more often to eat where it is “convenient”, and often abandoning their native habitat. If you feed the deer either intentionally or unintentionally then they learn quickly and will come into your yard and eat what is available or has been made available. Deer do seem to like sunflower seeds. If you have feeders where they can get to them, they will start out by eating what’s around on the ground and when that isn’t enough, they will “learn” how to empty the feeder. If they can reach it, they will nudge the feeder over spilling the seeds. When they get used to traveling a path to get at the easy pickings they will then “branch out” so to speak, and start nibbling at the apple tree limbs they can reach. When that source runs out, they will spread out to eating other shrubs like Arbor Vitae. They won’t eat the needles, though seemingly tender, and they end up on the ground, with the wood of the branch nibbled away. Wrapping the lower 5 or 6 feet of these is the only protection. Rhododendrons seem to be tasty to them as well. We have numerous outdoor landscaped shrubs and I have to fence them in, or they end up being eaten and eventually destroyed. Well intentioned may not be well reasoned.
On to some “Wramblings”. Daily temperatures and how they are reported have long been chilling to me, even when warm. The temperatures reported for much of this area are taken from the Wellsville Airport. If you go to the Weather Channel or most any of those mainstream weather sites to check your locality temperature you get the temperature from the Wellsville Airport, located on a hilltop several miles away. Additionally, you get what the temperature, and weather, is “predicted” for there, and not necessarily your own. Sunny or cloudy no big deal, but the temperature itself can vary by up to 15 degrees from my house to the Airport.
I am a dyed in the wool St. Bonaventure “Bonnies” basketball fan and have been one since the early 60’s. I don’t begrudge anyone following Duke, or North Carolina, or other “Brand name” teams but for me I would rather follow and ally with a Nationally known, but local, extremely entertaining team where I can actually go sit in the stands and cheer for a “Home Team” on a regular basis. Monday’s game vs St. Louis and Last night’s game vs UMass were as entertaining as it gets. Announced game “attendance” as reported in the Olean Times Herald seems to be a little off or misleading though. Reilly Center has a seating capacity of 5480 and the “listed” attendance was somewhat over 4000. My observation was that the Reilly Center was closer to half full than over two thirds full. I guess a lot of season ticket holders chose not to attend over their own misguided “rights, principles and freedoms”, as you had to prove vaccination to be admitted.
- One ambulance call requested transport to a hospital for a “toe infection”.
- Grandparent call to a local store parking lot for two teenage siblings fighting. Dispatch suggested they all wait in the car. Till an officer arrived. Nope! One’s inside and the other is locked outside, and grandparent is not going to have both of them in the car at the same time.
- During the past summertime: “A plant is missing off the porch”
- 911 call from a store employee that wanted to “report the manager for spreading rumors about the employee.”
- Call to dispatch about a cow in the road on County Rte 31. Dispatcher asked what color the cow was. (Apologies if I noted this one in an earlier column)
- 911 Call reporting a domestic. Spouse won’t give the TV Remote to the other spouse. I do not make these up. They are real although perhaps surreal.
- Heartbreaking call to dispatch. Child acting up and uncontrollable. Parent just wants the child gone.
- A significantly large number of Scanner calls still reported daily, with Protocol 36 criteria. Each and every one is potential heartbreak. Mask mandates are being lifted but for all too many they were not followed anyway. Masks are still recommended in close gatherings, and especially when in the company of those who are vulnerable and medically challenged to start with.