Commentary: We need your help to stop Philadelphia’s silent but deadly deer hunt

Posted 11/30/16

For the last 17 years, the annual slaughter of deer has continued. It has been supported silently by the City of Philadelphia, Friends of the Wissahickon, the Fairmount Park Commission, the …

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Commentary: We need your help to stop Philadelphia’s silent but deadly deer hunt

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For the last 17 years, the annual slaughter of deer has continued. It has been supported silently by the City of Philadelphia, Friends of the Wissahickon, the Fairmount Park Commission, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Mayor Jim Kenney and Wildlife Services in several parks within Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park System, but that doesn’t make it any less deadly for the deer.

So Friends of Animals and Philadelphia Advocates for the Deer (PAD), led by Mary Ann Baron and Bridget Irons, is asking supporters to make some noise this year as there is new leadership at the helm of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and at the Fairmount Park Conservancy, and they can help put an end to the shameful bloodshed.

Please use your voice and call/e-mail Commissioner of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Kathryn Ott Lovell and tell her to stop the hunt this year to review the practices and policies that have persecuted deer for years. Email: kathryn.ott.lovell@phila.gov /phone: 215-683-3666. Rick Magder, executive director of the Fairmount Park Conservancy, can be reached at rmagder@myphillypark.org/phone: 215-988-9334. You can also speak directly to Parks & Recreation staff.

Ironically the mission of the Friends of the Wissahickon is to preserve the natural beauty and wildness of the Wissahickon Valley and stimulate public interest therein, yet it seems to only be concerned about paying members who complain about deer ruining their prized gardens. In fact they don’t even show deer among the animals who people might encounter in the park anymore.

They have not been willing to hear the concerns of Philadelphia residents who think humans should change their behaviors and want to see non-violent alternatives to the deer hunt put into place—such as alternative gardening practices. And if heavy browsing in Wissahickon Valley, Pennypack, Tacony Creek, Cobbs Creek and West Park is such an issue, we advocate for other methods to protect areas, like more fencing that can inconspicuously protect sensitive plants and vulnerable areas of the forest, and using guards around tree trunks. The Parks and Rec Department has given $408,566 to USDA’s Wildlife Services from 2001 to 2016 to kill deer in these parks. It’s time to invest more in non-lethal measures.

The truth is humans are the most overpopulated animals on the earth, not deer. Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department doesn’t even know how many deer are in the Fairmont Park System, since it hasn’t done an aerial survey in years. And the on-the-ground surveys, it admits, are “used to find out, quite frankly, where they (deer) are before we go and conduct our work.”

But what we do know is that the human population of Philly has grown from 1,517, 313 in 2000 to 1,553,165 in 2013, an increase of 35,852 people, which means more visitors impacting the parks’ biospheres. In fact, the Friends of the Wissahickon webpage boasts that more than 1.1 million annual visitors take advantage of Wissahickon Valley Park’s abundant recreational opportunities—more than 50 miles of rugged trails offer hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians the opportunity to explore the park’s dense forests, open meadows and shaded creeks.

It’s time for all stakeholders to acknowledge how humans’ reckless overdevelopment directly impacts forest habitat and diversity, as does heavy usage since this park is just minutes from bustling Philadelphia. And it’s time to acknowledge hunting can cause the deer numbers to rise, accCOmmentaryording to biologists. In large populations, deer conceive later in the season, and that results in late-born fawns with a reduced chance of surviving through the winter. So although hunting reduces the population in the immediate sense, it stimulates early reproduction and augments the chances for survival in the next generation. And hunting will mean more food remains for the survivors.

And if the slaughterers’ feet aren’t held to the fire now, there is no end in sight for the needless deer slaughter. They’ve even callously referred to slaughtering deer annually as “cutting the grass—you cut it, but it’s going to grow again, so you have to cut it again.”

To reach out to PAD, visit www.phillydeeradvocates.com or contact Mary Ann Baron at maryannbaron3@gmail.com.

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