Last week, I had a brief description about the success of the Pittman-Robertson Act and how certain wildlife species have made a remarkable comeback from the brink of extinction in the 20th century. However, in the 21st century, some people think this program has been overly successful.
This past week, I read about a 45-year-old Florida woman being mauled by a black bear while in her driveway. The lady is now recovering from deep lacerations to her head and torso. While such attacks from black bears are rare, they do occur.
Common wildlife pests in West Virginia include bear, deer, coyotes, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels and woodchucks (groundhogs). These four-footed critters can cause far more damage than insect pests to suburban homes and/or gardens. I don't know how many times I have had people to tell me that "one groundhog can wreck a vegetable garden in no time."
The same holds true for cottontail rabbits and white-tailed deer. Black bears often get into garbage cans, and they can completely destroy a beehive. Predatory animals (bobcats, coyotes and foxes) often go after chickens and just about all of the young of farm animals.
The beautiful and graceful white-tailed deer has become a real problem for many of the large cities in Eastern United States. In the largely urban state of New Jersey, many communities are now beginning to realize that too many deer are something of a nuisance. The deer in this part of the nation have benefited from being close to people. They feast on a farmer's crops or a suburban dweller's flower garden. They also find excellent shelter from hunters and natural predators.
White-tailed deer are well-known for wandering onto roadways and causing traffic accidents that sometimes result in injury or even death. These problems have been enough to prompt the city of Princeton, New Jersey, to have a urban hunting season. City officials say it is not for sport, but it is part of a five-year plan to reduce the township's deer population from an estimated 1,600 to 400.
Animal rights activists are not arguing with the need to do something about the overabundance of deer; they do object with some of the ways being used. They flatly reject any form of hunting as a reasonable means and refer to it as "medieval barbarity". Animal rights activists appear to be more in favor in a program of tranquillizing and relocating the animals. Our own State Division of Natural Resources learned years ago this method is too expensive, impractical, and does not give satisfactory results in the long run.
Last year, hunters in West Virginia took 1,013 deer in the urban city deer hunts. This special archery deer hunting season is available to incorporated cities and homeowner associations which may open three weeks prior to the opening of the Statewide deer archery season.
In 2013, 13 cities (Alderson, Barboursville, Bethlehem, Bridgeport, Charleston, Harpers Ferry, Harrisville, Morgantown, North Hills, Parkersburg, South Charleston, Weirton and Wheeling) reported harvesting over 800 deer. An additional 243 deer were harvested during urban archery hunts conducted by eight homeowner associations. It is anticipated that more controlled deer hunts will be conducted in the near future.
Organized groups of responsible hunters need to make sure that sport hunting remains a tool for good conservation. They need to explain, through education, the reasons why we have hunting seasons in the first place. Conservation organizations, like the Izaak Walton League of America, need to exhibit that sport hunting is practical, sensible and most of all - good for local economies. All concerned hunters must ensure that conservation policies are just as relevant tomorrow as they are now, particularly for our youth.