A Brief History of Some North American Mammals and their Relation to Hunting


           There is as yet no wide and in-depth history of human cruelty to animals. David Nibert's Animal Rights, Human Rights tries to outline what a history of human cruelty to animals  might look like. He contends that the rise of cattle farming and meat eating corresponds to increases in violence and war and the denial of human rights to humans. The rise of the major religions as systems fo opression enabled large  scale delusions to be foisted on populations by religions.  The exact effects of meat eating on humans are not known or charted in history. Elsewhere Nibert explores how the colonization of the Americas was intertwined with the growth of the cattle industry.  He states that "The entangled oppression of devalued humans and cows is most obvious today in Brazil and the Darfur region in western Sudan — where murder and displacement are tied to the expansion of the profitable 'beef industry." Another book I found that begins to explore the history of cruelty to animals  is "Diane Beers' For the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals. It tells the story of groups in the US and UK that have opposed animal abuse. iN th eporcess of telling these stores she discusses the fate of many domestic animals. Paul Waldau book the Spectre of Speciesism opens the study of religious animals towards animals, He doesn't go far enough and the book has various weaknesses, but it is a good introduction to a vast and largely unresearched subject. Books like the Christian Philokalia, the Hindu Mahabharata or ancient Chinese, Tibetan or Muslim texts, for instance, need to be studied for their atrocious attitudes to animals. I have his only skimmed the surface of this subject, like a Barn Swallow drinking water from a river.

           To begin at the beginning: I am opposed to hunting, no big surprise to anyone who has read other writings by me. I am a vegetarian. I haven't eaten animals since 1997 or 98. Almost 10 years now, I guess.  For awhile after I gave up meat I would sometimes want meat when I walked into a restaurant an smelled steak or got a whiff of tuna fish somewhere. I gave up fish perhaps seven or eight years ago, when i began to understand how much the oceans are being destroyed by the fishing industry.  But more recently I find the smell of meat coming out of McDonald's restaurants or  other meat  houses repulsive. I watched crab killers and visited fishing factories near or in Eureka, California, where I live, and I find the human treatment of non human species horrible. Living in the rural west has let me see how atrocious the cattlemen really are and how they abuse livestock. The extent of damage done to the earth by cattle men is unknown. But many species have been impacts and some are on the edge of extinction. To take two examples. Both the Condor in North America and the Andean Condor in South America are endangered or close to extinction partly because of cattlemen shooting them or poisoning food intended for coyotes and eaten by Condors.  Prairie Dogs in North America are also in trouble because of cattlemen. Notice I don't blame cows, but only the cattlemen who exploit them and pander meat to the public.
           I've come to see that eating meat has real effects on how people behave.  Not eating meat puts one into a different category. One is no longer among the majority. Indeed, one is completely surrounded by those who eat dead animals and who are guilty of killing them.  People who eat meat are not only prone to excuse killing or violence against animals much more readily but they are also more likely to endorse wars such as Bush's killing of women, children and women and old people in Iraq. Eating meat has effects on one's outlook and philosophy, one's politics and beliefs.  It is painful to be aware of how others are in denial about how their meat eating makes them excuse violence. Meat eaters do not see this themselves, indeed, they are often  in denial about the harm they create by their bad habits . It is lonely to see the harm they cause and not to be able to share this insight with them.
        I have traversed the United States many times and each time I see different forms of cruelty to animals. Near Amarillo, Texas there is there is stink of the cattle and pig farms and factories. You can smell them for miles before yuo can see them. LLLLLLLLLLLLLLL

 LLLLLLIn Wyoming i have seen rodeos which torture bulls and calves in  rigged displays of human dominance. The cult of the cowboy is behind the butchering of Indians, animals and landscape in the west. The meat industry which destroys huge tracts of land with cattle, who destroy ecologies wherever they graze.  In Yellowstone the greed of the cattle men is again demonstrated in the killing of the few Bison that are left, In the last few years thousand have been killed. In both South and North Dakota pheasants, grouse,  geese and ducks are slaughtered every year in a wild heat of buck shot and bullets. The reason for this slaughter is not to supply food but rather to fulfill the lust to kill for pleasure and sport.  

     The modern male hunter is a strange kitsch being. He is not hunting to provide for his family.  A few hunters actually eat what they kill, but of these very few actually need to eat what they kill, so the killing is not really about subsistence and not about eating. Most modern hunters hunt for other reasons. Mostly it is to hold on to an image of maleness that is no longer useful or required. The modern hunter is a pale caricature of the hunters thousands of years ago who had to hunt because there was no other choice.  The modern hunter is a kitsch metaphor for a businessman, who kills his prey as a form of capital, and takes it home as a mortgage payment  from which the bank profits. Deer and other animals are kept as slave populations so that males can kill them in bloodsports to fool themselves into thinking they are 'real men', like the imagined hunters of old. But in fact, they are pathetic killers of animal populations that are allowed to exist only because it profits state agencies and allows for a leisure time ritual of sadistic pleasure to be had by men who are neither brave nor honest with themselves about how cowardly and reprehensible modern hunting really is.

     But what matters is not the hunters o much as the animals. The history of Deer in North America, particularly the White Tailed Deer in eastern America, like the history of the Buffalo, Pronghorn and the Beaver, shows in miniature the wider history of the baneful and abusive effects of  Euro-American ignorance on nature and wildlife. There were once vast herds of Deer. This is little known now, since Deer are so ruthlessly hunted, year after year, seriously disrupting their natural reproductive and social behaviors.  I have only seen a large wild herd of Deer once, in an area where hunting does not occur. The Deer numbered perhaps a hundred animals, and it was a sight to see. The social interactions were very complex and vibrant, with young bucks romping and fighting and does peacefully resting or grooming their young. It most areas the behavior of deer is distorted by  the yearly slaughter and abuse of the state supported system of hunting.  Did deer herds once have  males who stayed with the herd most of the year? Has hunting pressure forced males, since they are more coveted as trophies, to separate more form the females so as to find places to hide?

The Beaver and Deer Skin Trade

           The history of the Beaver is better known than the history of the White Tailed Deer. The Beaver was ruthlessly pursued by Europeans as part of the fashion trade. As early as 1650 Europeans first employed Native Americans to trap and sell Beaver skins. The trade in Beaver skins was pursued primarily to exploit the fur-wool of short hairs that grows on beaver next to the skin and provides insulation, and this fur was then made into hats and other articles of clothing. The trade, beginning in the 1600's, after the Europeans had already wiped out their own beaver populations, went on to decimate the entire beaver population of North American by 1900. The Beaver trade began with such early corporate entities as the Dutch East India Company and the Hudson's Bay Company. Indeed, the formation of contemporary corporate world begins in the exploitation of beaver, buffalo and deer, as well as in the exchange of humans as slaves and the destruction of Native populations of peoples.
     The Beaver trade was extremely rapacious. In one area, in Northern California, one of the so called "mountain men", Jedidiah Smith, wiped out the entire Beaver population in 20 years. The Mountain men were not "heroes", as is often maintained, but killers and advance men for various Robber Barons, Such as the Astors, who lived back east and profited from the sale of skins. In return for the skins the Europeans traded guns and alcohol, among other things, seriously disrupting both Native American cultural norms and intertribal relations. The use of guns, gained largely through the Beaver and Deer trade, allowed some tribes, like the Iroquois, too gain unfair advantage over other tribes, with the result that some tribes were wiped out entirely.
     Trade in Deer and Otter skins was also considerable, and also resulted in serious disruption of both Native culture and balance between tribes.  Deer, Otter and Beaver were used by Europeans to drag the tribal peoples of North America into a type of economy that was largely foreign to them, with many disastrous effects both on the Beaver and Deer populations and the Indians themselves. The Deer and Beaver trade helped begin a process of the undermining and in some cases, outright destruction of Native tribes and tribal relations. The trade brought war, poverty, alcoholism in addition to eventual cultural disruption and in some cases, tribal extinction.   This was not an accidental effect of "fair" trade, but a matter of deliberate and conscious policy.  
        In other words, the destruction of  the Beaver, Otter and Deer populations by European trade was instrumental in not just eliminating the large populations of these animals in North America, but it also aided in eliminating most of the eastern tribes. Those tribes that were able to remain in their original lands were few, such as the Seneca of Western New York, but even in this case, most of the Seneca lands have been stolen. Most Native Americans were either wiped out entirely by European guns or diseases, or were forced to move westward. It is a little known detail of the famous story of the Cherokee trail of Tears, for instance, that the Deer trade had largely wiped out a major food source of the Cherokee in Georgia by 1800, and that  the abuse  or "removal" of Deer by the European markets preceded the later illegal removing of the Cherokee from their ancestral lands.

   Hunter Caused Extinctions 
      Of course, one has to see the devastation caused to native Americans and individuals of such species as Deer and Beaver in the larger context of 19th and 20th century atrocities.  These atrocities are world wide, of course. One can trace the massacres fo whales around the world in the 18th to 20th centuries, Elephants are murdered ruthlessly; Lions, Cheetah, Antelope and countless other animals too. But when one looks closer to home, virtually anywhere on earth, one finds the same story. Humans ruthlessly seek to dominate and eliminate other species in a selfish effort to exploit all he continents for profit and power over the earth. 

     So, when I have looked  into the history of treatment of animals locally, for instance, in a state where I have lived some years, Ohio,  the devastation is horrendous. For instance, according to Jared Kirtland, the Mountain Lion was exterminated in Ohio  by 1838 and the Wolf nearly extinct by 1848. The hatred of animals was so severe that in 1807 the Ohio government ordered that some taxes be paid in squirrel skins, which resulted in nearly 20,000 "scalps" being turned into the government in 1822. Some of the greatest slaughter of the Passenger pigeon occurred in Ohio and the last one died in Ohio in 1914. In 1862 the last Carolina Parakeet was seen, killed by hunters. By 1800 nearly all the Woodland Buffalo and most of the Prairie's of Ohio had been destroyed. The Woodland Buffalo, different than the Plains Bison, is extinct, except for some hybrid populations in Canada.  The so called "Great Hinckley Hunt", in 1818, involved mass slaughter of animals. In this case, as in other towns in Ohio, a circle of hunters would surround and area and kill everything that moved in that area. In this hunt in Hinckley, Wolves, Bears, Foxes Raccoons, Turkeys and other birds were all massacred. Moreover, the great forests that once dominated Ohio were destroyed, and the Beech, Oak, Elm, White Pine and Ash forests were shaved to the ground. The Great Black Swamp, one of the greatest wetlands in the US was destroyed. Lake Erie, and many rivers in Ohio were polluted causing horrendous losses to mollusk, fish and amphibian populations. All this occurred in a relatively small area of the Midwest. But the record in other states and countries follows a similar pattern. The war of extermination against Indians was part and parcel of a war against all nature.
       What occurred locally, in Ohio, occurred and is still occurring, all over the world. The Dodo, Moa,  Passenger Pigeon,  Carolina Parakeet and the Great Auk among many other bird species were driven into extinction. Egrets were nearly driven to extinction by the craze for their feathers in hats. Snow Leopards are disappearing from the Himalayas, due to the speciesism of local goat and sheep ranchers who refuse to change their sheparding practices to accommodate and endangered species.  The Whales, Narwhals and Belugas were ruthlessly hunted. The oceans have been emptied of huge fish populations and such fecund breeding areas as the great Banks of the Northern Atlantic are now virtually barren. Some say that at least 50% of the fish populations are now gone form the sea due to overfishing. Most of the animals of Africa had their populations decimated, and they have not been allowed to return. Various species of primates are extinct and most are seriously threatened. Wolves, Wolverines, Mountain Lions, 50 species of parrot and Macaw, Pandas, Tigers, Leopard,  and thousands of other animals are all in danger.  Amazonian and Indonesian species of plants and animals are seriously threatened. This is not to mention the huge numbers of insect, reptile, Amphibian and plant species,  already extinct or increasingly rare. Nearly half the frog and salamander species on earth or in danger. In addition there has been destruction of native cultures, forests, water systems, air quality, and much else. Global warming threatens many species. This willful destruction is unprecedented in the earth's history.  The causes are very simple: greed, the ideology of human superiority, religion, the belief in man's 'transcendental' purpose: corporate capitalism, communism, selfishness, lack of respect for nature and all non-human beings.  But this bewildering orgy of destruction of the earth and its inhabitants is almost incomprehensible in its vast outlines.. That is why it is best to look at one or two species at a time. So here I am talking about mammals, especially various ungulates, mostly Deer,  but also Buffalo and Pronghorn.

Deer, Buffalo or Bison, and Pronghorn

       Deer, Buffalo or Bison, and Pronghorn once existed in such numbers that they can be compared to the once vast ungulate populations of antelope or gazelle in Africa. Much of America was a haven for ungulates, as was Africa. The 50 million Buffalo that were exterminated by Europeans between 1830 and 1890 tells a gruesome and shameless story of European hatred of nature. To the White European, America was a "wilderness", and "wilderness"  was more or less equal in their minds to "waste" or wasted, which meant to them, "unredeemed" or uncapitalized, and thus "saving" America from wildness meant raping it of its "resources". This bloody activity was supposedly sanctioned by the god of the Christians, Jesus. This very destructive but convenient mentality, which usually is called "Manifest Destiny" supplied a ready excuse not just to destroy native American peoples and cultures but also the lives and habitats of birds animals and forests. As Luther Standing Bear explained in 1933, Native Americans "did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills, and winding streams with tangled growth, as 'wild.' Only to the white man was nature a "wilderness" and only to him was the land 'infested' with 'wild' animals and 'savage' people". 
 The replacing of the Buffalo and Pronghorn  by cattle, which cause erosion, soil streams and overgraze wild lands is another part of this story. Cattle do not belong in the Western states and their continued presence there has many destructive ecological consequences. It was clear from the very beginning to those involved in the actual decimation of both Indian, Pronghorn and Buffalo populations that wiping out the one would wipe out the other. Killing off the animals that Indians lived in relative harmony with would destroy the tribes. As  General Philip Sheridan stated in the 19th century, "[the buffalo hunters] have done more in the past two years....to settle the vexed Indian question...than the entire regular army has done in the past thirty years. They have destroyed the Indians commissary.....let them kill, skin and sell until the buffaloes are exterminated. Then your prairies  can be covered with speckled cattle and the festive cowboy".


        Concerning Pronghorn, they are little known animals to most Americans, largely because their 1800 population of at least 35 million animals was reduced to only about 13,000 by 1900.  Lewis and Clark saw vast herds, usually in the company of the vast herds of Buffalo. Pronghorn Antelope had a very interesting relationship to the Buffalo and traveled with them in vast herds. The Buffalo eats grasses, mostly, and the Pronghorn eat mostly forbs, flowering plants, and shrubs. The Buffalo, who like to wallow and laze, cleared out areas of grass for forbs and shrubs to grow, where the Pronghorn would eventually find food. This mutualistic relationship helped sustain the health of the Prairie plant communities over eons.

       It might be worth noting that another antelope, the Saiga Antelope of Mongolia and southern Russia has recently become endangered in Mongolia and conservation dependent in other areas due to rapacious poaching. The poaching is done to obtain the horns of this animal, which are sold to serve the market for Chinese medicine, one of the most destructive markets for animals in the world.
1990, China imported 80 tons of these horns, for instance (Schaller 1993).Chinese medicine a largely bogus medical practice, a hodge-podge of superstition and greed. Many threatened and endangered animal species are used in traditional Chinese medicine, all of them without any real medical value. Much of Chinese medicine is based on sympathetic magic, a discredited system of belief, for instance, that eating ground up tiger bones will make you more energetic because tigers run fast, etc. Besides the Saiga the Chinese have harmed many species in their search for bogus cures. They  torture live bears by strapping them in cages to take bile from their livers by force. The Chinese also and use rhinoceros horns, Tiger testicles, Seahorse and Musk deer among many other other species, and all for no valid or proven medical reason. Likewise the the horns of Saiga have no medicinal value at all. But they are sold as if they did.  As a result of this exploitation the Saiga population has crashed and their very existence is in danger.  The Saiga once numbered in the millions in the Central Asian steppes, similar to the American Bison. But they are largely gone form the wild. This is a current example of human depravity against a species which shows that not nearly enough has changed since the Bison were all but wiped out in the 19th century. Indeed, world wide vast numbers of species are under threat, more than at any time since the Pleistocene extinctions of 65 million years ago. But the cause of those extinctions was natural, the current threats are all human caused.
      In addition to the near extermination of the Pronghorn and the Bison or Buffalo, the cattle industry has wiped out over 90% of the Prairie Dog towns that once helped sustain both Bison and Pronghorn, and many other species on the Plains and deserts of the West.  Prairie Dogs increase the organic richness of soils, and this enriches the nutritional value of plants on the Prairie, with many benefits to Bison, Pronghorn and other species. The current endangered status of the Black Footed Ferret, the Utah Prairie Dog and various birds, especially  the Ferruginous Hawk and  and Burrowing Owl,  is a direct result of the cattle Industry, the myth of the Cowboy, and the system of "Welfare Ranching"  maintained by the U.S. Government. I mentioned early that the cattle industry has also contributed to the decline and endangerment of the North and South American Condors.
     The rapacious abuse of western lands by hunters, ranchers and profiteers is one of the deepest and most shameful and lasting scars on the American landscape. Inspired by Christian hatred of nature, the notion that wild nature is somehow a place of "original sin", as well as notions of wilderness as useless lands that must be "redeemed" by exploitation and capitalization,  the 19th century is only rivaled by the 20th century as a time of the greatest disrespect for all life in all of earth's history. The murderous rampage of human beings against all other life forms during the 19th and 20th centuries is largely unstudied and with few apologies, but it certainly is an atrocity of major proportions and one that rivals and in some respects is much worse than the horror of Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and the Middle Passage of the slave trade. Indeed, all these atrocities share similar causes and motives.

Deer were largely wiped out during the same period as the Buffalo and Pronghorn and for similar reasons, though they managed to survive in the wild in small numbers, unlike the Buffalo, because they were better adapted to the forest and could hide. Nevertheless, by 1900 there were few white-tailed Deer left in eastern North America and few Native Americans as well. Genocide was not just practiced against races of people but also against tribes of animals .

    The near extermination by hunting of the White tailed Deer precipitated the development of a new form of animal exploitation between 1900 and the present. Individual states began setting up state "game" agencies, largely over seen by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which protected Deer and fish and other "game" animals only to the extent that they could continued to be killed and the state could profit from the killing though the sale or license and other taxes. Essentially state "game" agencies, usually directed under a department of "resources", set up a system of profiteering on the basis of Deer, Elk, Moose, fish and other kinds of animals, the state exacting a toll on  each murdered item..
    State "game agencies" are not ecologically minded, whatever they may say or promote about themselves. Rather, they are essentially  in the meat and trophy business, or rather, since the majority of hunters do not eat the Deer, Pronghorn, Elk or Bear they kill, the state game agencies are essentially in the killing for pleasure business, In short, the hunting industry is largely a state supported system of sadism and cruelty to animals.
     As Thoreau stated in his book Walden
"no humane being, past the thoughtless age of boyhood, will wantonly murder any creature which holds its life by the same tenure that he does." And further, he states that any mature "poet or naturalist....leaves the gun and fish-pole behind." This means that the current state game agencies essentially serve the murderous wishes of overage adolescent boys, even if they are over fifty or sixty. Most North American wild animals, unless are  so reduced as to be nearly extinct, are regularly subjected to exploitation and sadistic bloody minded hunters, who enjoy killing for pleasure, and who are too immature to have real respect for other beings in nature.
    The model of  the state game agencies was largely patterned on treating wild animals as another form of commodity, just like oil, gas, farm products or minerals. The point of view of these agencies was and largely remains thoroughly human centered or "resourcist".  Currently the state departments of Natural Resources are largely industry driven or run by hunters and therefore open to all kinds of corruption. There is no real attempt to model wildlife policy on the actual needs to the animals, the ecology or the environment. There is a growing movement, thankfully, to change these agencies and open their boards of directors to environmentalists, animal rights activists, and those who actually have understanding and sympathy with the notion that not just people, but animals, fish and birds, all have a right to be here and deserve protection. We need a democratic policy toward nature that is inclusive of all nature: balanced, informed and mature and not based on the murderous immaturity of hunters. Flora and Fauna have more of a right to "citizenship" in a given area than do people, since animals and plants have been here far longer than humans.  At the current time hunters comprise only about 5 percent of the population yet they largely control the agenda of the state "wildlife" or "game" agencies. This is blatantly anti-democratic in addition to prolonging a 19th century way of thinking about nature that is both shameful and anachronistic.

      Moreover, the "science" that is the basis and justification of state game agency policy is largely "junk science", that is,  bad scholarship serving a financial or unjust agenda. For instance the primary study done on pre-settlement Deer population used by the state game agents and other people who want to justify killing Deer done was done by Richard MaCabe and was published in White Tailed Deer: Ecology and Mangement(1984)This essay is the source from which, in many publications one finds repeated the idea that early populations of Deer were at 7-10 Deer per sq. mile. This number is used as a comparison device to claim that the current levels of Deer in a given area are too high or low.
    But if one examines how this number was arrived at, its blatantly political purpose is revealed. Of course this number is an average for the entire area of the 3 million square miles of the white tailed Deer range. MaCabe claims that there were 2.34 million Indians between Maine, Florida and the area between Rocky Mountains and Idaho.
To come up with the figure of 7-10 Deer per sq, mile of Deer  MaCabe imagined how many deer he believed each Indian was eating and mutliplied this by the land area of the range of the white tailed Deer. Thus the Deer density is entirely determined by the density of Native Americans over a 3 million sq, mile area. This would be fine if his number of Indians and how much venison they ate was correct. But the facts are otherwise. There had to have been at least 12-15 million Indians east of the Rockies, not 2.34 million as MaCabe imagines. The population of North America is thought by Dobyns, Churchill and many others to have been about 18.3 million. It may have been more. But recent scholarship indicates it could not have been less. The white tailed Deer population must have been correspondingly higher in 1500. Very likely it was at least 50-60 million animals, not the "23-32 million" that MaCabe imagines. Currently there are only about 14 million white tails in the US. The notion that pre-settlement Deer populations were lower than at present is more than a statistical error. It is an outright lie.
     It is also likely that after the demographic disasters of the1500's created a reduction in  Indian populations the already large population of Deer must have increased. By the time of Plymouth Rock and 1620, there might have been 50-60 million or more Deer east of the Rockies, not the 40 million Deer prior to white arrival in 1500 that naturalist Ernest Thomas Seton claimed, nor the 23-32 million claimed by MaCabe. .This means that the Deer must have been very thickly populated in some areas and thinly in others. To say that there was an average of 20-30 Deer per sq. mile over such a large area would be meaningless and deceptive. In some areas there must have been Deer populations of 100 or even 200 per sq. mile, and in others areas lacking in food sources, there was probably few Deer. This is exactly what the historical sources describe. Thomas Ashe in 1682 that "there are such infinite herds of white-tailed Deer that the whole country [of Carolina] seems one continued park" In 1687 Baron LaHouton said that "I cannot express the quantities of Deer and turkey that are to be found on the south side of the Lake ( Lake Erie)". So even along Lake Erie, there were high Deer densities, no doubt especially in wet flood plain forest areas and along river valleys. The Deer densities in the Cuyahoga and Rocky River watersheds can be surmised to have been much higher than currently exist, and the Deer had no real effect on either native plant or bird populations. In short, Deer were much more populous in 1500 and 1600 than they are now, and probably were four times more populous. The chiming chorus of those who claim there are "too many" Deer now is just wrong. the problem is people and developers, the division of Wildlife, the Forest Service researchers and bad historians, not Deer.
    This being the case, I think that one should not only be suspicious of "game" agency histories of Deer populations, but one shouldn't trust them at all. What is clear to me is that the low Deer densities prior to white settlement that are postulated by the "Game" Agencies, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, The Ohio Division of Wildlife, the Audubon Society and many others, right up to the USFWS, are  based on bad history, bogus science, and interested and biased politics.
     The purpose of claiming low Indian populations prior to European settlement is plain. Positing low Indian populations was a means of covering up genocidal motives and rapacious land use practices. If there were low Indian populations prior to the European Invasion than stealing Indian land is less ethically culpable. The same is true of Deer populations. If early Deer populations were low, then the "Game" Commissions can justify killing more Deer. It is clear that game commission histories of Deer  populations are motivated by greed, not the search for the truth. Or, in the case of Park managers, positing low Deer densities is a way of exercising greater and more arbitrary power over an abused and fragmented park system. In the case of the Audubon Society, their well known association with Game agents, the US Forest Service and Corporate lobbies has corrupted their view.
    So the history of the eastern White tail Deer has been closely allied to various kinds of corruption, scapegoating and exploitation. First decimation of Deer populations, as well as Pronghorn, Beaver and buffalo, was closely related to the destruction of Native American peoples and culture. Then, after 1900, Deer, moose, Pronghorn and other animals become an  commodity for sale by the state to men who enjoy killing. By 1900 Beaver and Buffalo were nearly extinct, though Beaver, and less so Buffalo, have recovered to some extent.. Lately, in the last ten years  new trends in scapegoating Deer have arisen, though they are merely extensions of the old forms of exploitation and corruption.
    The US Forest Service, which is not really a "Forest Service", at all, but rather an adjunct of the corrupt Logging industry, has been claiming that Deer are destroying valuable saplings of hardwoods and conifers, which, if there were not so many Deer, would net the logging industries greater profits. The notion that Deer are a danger to diversity of trees in the forest is ludicrous for several reasons. The most obvious being that if Deer did threaten diversity the historically large number of eastern Deer would have long ago wiped out diversity in the vast eastern forests. Deer did no damage the eastern forests, but appear to have thrived and even aided woodland and meadow diversity. The "science" of the Forest Service is largely a science driven by politics and a science which carefully exempts study of human caused degradation of eastern forests.
     The real causes of increased loss of diversity in eastern forests are fairly simple to discern. Pollution has made many species of trees sick and more prone to disease and insect infestation. Fragmentation of forests, by the Forest Service and their clients especially, has resulted in remnant populations of trees, in many cases trees of similar age and kind, cut prematurely, resulting in lessened diversity and greater danger of disease and fire. But of course the notion of diversity is fashionable nowadays and the Forest Service is trying to use it to scapegoat Deer, in addition to many other animals they claim as "pests", in the hopes of turning  more public forests into tree farms for logging companies. One must be wary of the many misuses of the idea of "diversity", since it is often used cynically.
    The various state game agencies are at some variance with the logging company directed "Forest Service", because the state agencies want to increase Deer reproduction so as to maximize killing and thereby increase their coffers. Then to add to this mix, various birding groups, such as the Audubon Society and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center have joined the chorus against Deer, since they lament the decreases in bird populations and have ties with the Forest Service. Of course, the truth is that Deer only affect bird populations in the slightest possible way, and mostly in urban areas where the Deer are virtually penned in by over development and urban sprawl. The Deer are not at fault, the cause of bird declines has to do with urban sprawl, developers greed, fragmentation of forests and the loss of habitat in areas where these birds migrate, particularly in Central and South America. Bad urban and suburban design are o blame for this, since designers rarely factor in impacts to natural areas, and never consider how they are going to pay back species whose homes they displace.. Deer are not to blame. Hardly anyone questions or seriously tries to hinder the developers who promote urban sprawl and destroy whole areas of bird nesting habitat. Hardly anyone opposes the rape of public forests or the increasing fragmentation of forests by the Forest Service and Logging interests. And hardly anyone questions the ranchers and meat producers, who graze their cattle or public lands, destroying creeks, causing erosion and destroying bird habitat. In short Deer are being scapegoated and used as an excuse for further exploitation of the land for greed. This continues the heritage of exploitation and abuse of North American mammals that was already apparent when Deer and Beaver skins were used as an excuse to corrupt and eventually decimate Eastern Indian tribes.
    At times I have advocated a short term solution to the "Deer problem" in urban parks involving the use oft a vaccine or contraceptive devised to limit Deer or other animals in urban areas or parks by non lethal means. But I have some serious doubts about this stuff. Various researchers have developed
 the contraceptive vaccine porcine zonae pellucidae (PZP). The PZP vaccine, (made from pig fetuses) has been used been used as a contraceptive on black rhinoceros,  horses, giraffe, Grevyi's zebra, Hippopotamus, Bison, Elephants, WhiteTailed Deer and others. It's original purpose was humane and praiseworthy: to stop the senseless slaughter of wild animals in places where they are over populating an area due to human domination of nearby environments, where the only other alternative was shooting the animals. So for instance the vaccine was used on wild horse populations in Assateague National Park in Virginia,  Elk populations in Point Reyes, California. It has been used to limit Deer populations, by non-lethal means successfully on Fire Island New York and other areas, . But there is a real danger with this vaccine. When it is refined further, it opens up the possibility of human control of many other mammal species to suit human whims. For instance, it has already been used on seal populations in order to try to increase fish populations, which the seals eat. However, there is little evidence that controlling seal and sea lion populations will boost fisheries and such efforts merely deflect attempts to end the over fishing and environmental degradation that are the root causes of fish population declines.  Ity has also been used on Coyote populations. It is likely to be used eventually on domestic animals, such as cats and dogs, which might have some merit, but it use on wild animals raises many ethical questions concerning human hubris.
will enable people to play god with the lives of animals even more intrusively and  invasively than they do now. It extends the ability of humans to dominate and virtually domesticate wild species. It is also in the process of being commercialized, which means that Deer and other animals will increasingly be limited to existing only when and where humans decide they have the right to exist and in what number. Personally, I believe that we have the duty to oppose manipulations of animal populations in most cases. We the right to limit animals  populations only in extreme cases and only when and where there is no other alternative, and even then it must be done with regret and for no commercial motive. We must first control our own population growth and abuse of forests, oceans and wild lands before we begin trying to dictate to other species how many they should be or where they should live. It would make sense to alter the reproductive cycle of Deer, for instance, only after we have stopped Urban sprawl, stopped fragmentation of forests, stopped the Forest Service from betraying public lands by selling the rights to trees and grazing lands to loggers, miners and ranchers. Of course, PZP would be needed in few areas if this were done.  Proponents of PZP tend to minimize the dangers it presents.
      There is now and never was a "Deer problem". The problem has always been and is now the problem of the mindset of those who invaded North America after 1620. These people did not then and do not now respect the land, forests, deserts and animals of the lands they falsely claimed as belonging exclusively to them. It was not just the Native Americans who were abused, driven form their homes and threatened with extinction. It was also the Deer, Buffalo, Pronghorn, Moose and many other species. The solution to the "Deer problem" is not PZP, more hunting, or further scapegoating of these animals. The solution is the re-education of the minds of those who have exploited North American lands. Buffalo, Deer, Beaver, Pronghorn and many others have a prior right to the lands of North America. Their lands should be returned to them.
    The suggestion, for instance, that a "Buffalo Commons" be created that extends from North Dakota to Kansas or Northern Texas is a valuable idea. Much of this land is not much good for farming anyway. There should again be herds of buffalo roaming free in the lands where they have lived for untold eons. Deer should be allowed to live in areas made free of human use, such as the Adirondacks, Western Pennsylvania  where hunting, recreation, logging, mining and other "multiple uses" should be forbidden.
    The system of "reservations" and National Parks should be much expanded so as to form continuous, connected free lands, no longer reservations. Cities should be limited as to growth and capitalism only practiced in the cities, which would be essentially on "reservations", all land out of the cities being free and common. It should be accepted that Deer like Squirrels and Beaver existed in large populations in eastern North America and that this is not a crime to be rectified by killing them. They have a right to exist on lands free of human manipulations. There should be areas in the eastern US where wolves and mountain lion are again allowed to roam free. There should be "Deer Commons" and "Beaver Commons" where these animals and the birds and other life that associate with them are allowed their own independent existence, unmolested by human uses. Such common lands should be large, and interconnected so the animals can freely move and migrate. Visitation by humans should be restricted and peaceful, no hunting of fishing, mining, silvaculture or agriculture.
     State "game agencies" need to be abolished and replaced with agencies that are run by environmentalists and animals rights people. The Forest Service needs to be dismantled and rebuilt as a service that restores our forests to their original health and diversity complete with the wildlife that thrived in them. Cattle need to be driven back east from the western states in a reversal of the Cowboy expansion of the 19th century. Sage deserts will return and National Parks will cease to be violated by these animals that do not belong there. I would like to see all cattle removed from west of the Mississippi. All Logging companies need to be removed from National Forest and National Park areas and much more severely restricted in other areas. Plants, animals trees and habitats have prior rights to property owners, and it is about time that we respect these rights and start returning lands and habitats to the plant and animal citizens of North America.
         Lastly we need a "social history" of animals and nature, written from the "bottom up" instead of the "top down", that is to say, written form the point of view of the animals, birds and natural worlds themselves. This social history should be as deeply sympathetic and varied as the social histories that have been written about native peoples, women, workers, minorities, slaves and old people

Click here
to go to a local history of deer