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DON'T BE SO QUICK TO KILL THE DEER ON NAVY ISLAND

In the shadow of the Festival of Lights lies Canadian-owned Navy Island, 128 hectares of pristine woodland and the largest land mass before the falls. Isolated by swiftly flowing waters, it has developed its own unique ecosystem, complete with a small band of white-tailed deer. For years, this singular world thrived under self-rule.

But in recent times, it has come under human jurisdiction. Here, the philosophy prevails that imbalance in any species population jeopardizes the survival of the remaining life forms. So the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources executed a special lottery for hunters. Throughout the month of November, 72 winners had access to the island to cull the deer back to what has been scientifically deemed the optimum population.

Such radical intervention in the mechanics of nature is more disruptive than problem-solving. Mass killings often increase reproduction rates of ruminants that depend on vegetation. Increasing the availability of food increases the nutritional status of those remaining. In addition to breeding earlier, female deer may produce twins or triplets instead of single fawns.

Social tension, on the other hand, often encourages breeding the second autumn rather than the first and the birth of single fawns. As tension escalates, sperm counts may drop in males and females may absorb their embryos. These inherent brakes have similar devices in all species. Perhaps it's nature's way of securing the survival of the fittest. It is in our best interest not to exert too much control over the other beings that roam our planet. It has survived much longer than humans and is much wiser in its own management than we could honestly profess to be.

MARSHA MCCULLOCH East Amherst

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