As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, we’re running low on songbirds — or so says Daniel Cristol, a professor of biology at William & Mary:
Humanity’s assault on migratory birds includes a familiar litany of human-made perils — clearing of forests, predation by cats and poisoning by the toxic byproducts of agriculture and industry.
(Yes — a hint that Prof. Cristol might be a wingnut of some dimension is offered by the strange and sudden introduction of “predation by cats” between deforestation and pollution above. Your daughter may think her calico tabby is a sweet wittle Mr. Muggums, but the good professor sees only a demonic fanged menace chomping gleefully into Tweetie Bird. Yet somehow we can’t help thinking that the percentage of birds that actually fall prey to “cat predation” probably does not justify what seems like a veiled suggestion we’d all be better off if we just gassed all the Sylvesters with no further delay.)
Still, at appears that birds have something else to fear besides poisons and clear-cutting (and, of course, those hordes of ravenous cats). The professor adds:
But one of the biggest contributors to the decline in migratory bird populations has gone largely unnoticed: white-tailed deer.
Deer? Are you kidding me? Bambi is a bird-killer?
Well, yes. It appears that rapidly-increasing white-tail deer populations are eating more than their fair share of forest greenery, depriving birds of important nesting sites. The white-tail deer are expanding because, having been hunted into near-extinction, they are now protected, and with no check on their growth, doing much better than the omnipotent masters of environmental control deem suitable. So, what’s the answer?
One easy step is to fence off select sections of the woods, creating deer-less oases. Researchers in Virginia and Pennsylvania have successfully fenced deer out of small forest plots, demonstrating that although deer severely alter the structure and composition of deciduous forests, vegetation and birds come roaring back when deer are excluded.
Yup. That’s what he said.
First, we “protected” the deer, but that started killing off the birds. Now, we should spend God knows how many millions on fencing off wilderness areas (!) with God knows what unintended consequence that may bring. Suddenly, however, the professor seems to come to his senses:
Fencing, however, is expensive, especially on such a large scale. An even easier solution is to go back to the source of the problem: stop managing our forests for deer.
Now that seems a splendid idea. It’s an even better idea of we leave off the phrase “for deer.” Forests may need a lot less management than our self-appointed guardians of nature believe, especially given our sorry track record thus far.