Doing the right, difficult deer thing

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Possible is better than perfect, as Charles Bukowski used to say.

The debate over how to deal with the urban deer population here has been a hot topic for years, recurring inevitably each season, and ultimately the decision to hold the crossbow hunt was and is the only sane, merciful and affordable option readily available to the city.

We can't move the deer elsewhere; there's no money for that. We can't neuter them all; there's no money for that.

We can fight the urban hunt plans tooth and nail for various reasons -- some better than others -- and let the deer starve out, or let them eat everything green that isn't tied down and eventually starve to death anyway. We could even feed them and put out salt licks if that would solve anything. But it wouldn't.

The deer-feeding ban that was put in place in 2010 was a step in the right direction.

Alderman James DeVito, who has been in favor of that ban all along, pointed out at the recent City Council meeting that the current drought has driven more deer into town than would be here in wetter conditions, and he says it's unfair if those deer suffer from the culling process that they would not normally be part of, were they not driven into town seeking something to drink.

DeVito favors eliminating the first part of the proposed hunt, scheduled for Sept. 15-Oct. 7, while going forward with the later portion, schedule for Nov. 10-Feb. 28.

His willingness to compromise on the issue shows a sort of thinking that at least allows for progress to be made. As we have seen in Congress the past several years, digging in your heels because you aren't getting your way 100 percent -- and causing zero progress as a strategy -- is neither useful nor productive for one's constituency. And in this case it will be bad for the deer.

How many people reading this have had a deer bounce off their car? How many people reading this have come out to discover their flower beds gone overnight because someone was starving?

Eurekans have a well-known and respected tradition of standing up for what they believe in, whether or not it works out the way they want. We respect that. Foucault referred to that French form of "résistance" as a political act, standing your ground regardless of goal, a process rather than a result.

That is admirable certainly, and perhaps we are remiss in concluding that people here are sometimes contrary because contrariness is what they do best.

The point here is that in life, occasionally, it is possible to do a thing and get it done without it being absolutely 100 percent perfect first.

Yes, it's true that someone who is not in favor of the hunt might be faced with its evidence, if a wounded door runs across their yard. That is certainly distressing, but so are the dozens more deer you won't see because they starved to death out of sight.

It is true that safety is a vital dimension of this hunt, and every hunter should be vetted ahead of time. We are assured this will take place.

According to the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, however, no urban hunts in which they have participated in over 10 years have resulted in death or injury to local residents. And since we have to draw the line someplace, it seems in this case like a reasonable idea to let the people who know what they're doing do it.

In the end, we can only urge the City Council to not abandon the hunt altogether, whether it happens as scheduled now or otherwise. Perhaps hunting is cruel; we're certain that starving to death is. Just think about it.