If you need a group to get things stirred up, real good, and real fast, one could hardly do better than PETA. Here in Buffalo, for example, our local zoo is up to its neck in accusations of polar bear mistreatment, largely spurred by PETA, who has put pressure on the USDA and other oversight groups. (Of course PETA is against zoos, period.) For the last week, the polar bear issue has been a leading story on almost every media outlet here. For what it’s worth, I’m in agreement with PETA on this—our zoo is inadequate for housing polar bears, and a lot of the other large mammals they have.
And now, a bunch of riled-up PETA members has picketed the Detroit News, reacting to—and this is the unusual part—a garden advice column. Picketing a garden advice column. I just had to repeat that phrase, because it’s not something that happens too often. In his column on Saturday, garden writer Jeff Ball advocated the humane disposal of such “pest animals” as raccoons and deer. Here’s the offending excerpt:
The best way to get rid of pest animals is to hire a local wildlife removal company. They come in, trap the critter, and remove it safely for a fee. For a list of available companies go to Michigan wildlife removal. If you insist on handling the problem yourself, you need a proper cage trap that is properly baited. And then you need a method for disposing of the animal in a humane fashion, usually by drowning or dispatching with a gun.
Shocking? Yes, at least to me. I can’t imagine pointing a gun at a deer or raccoon in a trap. Of course, I doubt I’d hit them if I did; I’d probably shoot my own foot off or, at best, blast myself a nice hole in the ground, suitable for planting small bulbs. I do appreciate that this is offered as the option of last resort.
And it cannot be denied that these animals are considered pests by many gardeners, with considerable justification. I spend a lot of time with suburban gardeners during Garden Walk helping them figure out ways to foil deer and rabbits. I must say, however, even with all the deer we have, I have never heard any gardener speak of shooting them. (Hunters are another story.)
Here’s another Buffalo animal story: we have a woman known as the deer lady, whose feeding of deer in a park near her has gotten her jailed at least once. She looks upon it as a deeply-felt charity and has attained somewhat of a martyr persona. Deer are a problem in Western New York, but only, of course, because development has taken away their former predators. [Thanks for the edit, Chuck B.] There is a “bait and shoot” program here where professional sharpshooters lure the deer into a large area, and then shoot them—only at certain times of the year. I’ve never heard gardeners advised to do so before.
If I had this problem, I’d be looking into the repellants and fencing options (also mentioned by Ball) that other gardeners have tried with some success, and I’d make sure I had a secure garbage bin, such as the locking “totes” we use in Buffalo. Hauling out the artillery wouldn’t be on my list.