Monday, December 26, 2005

Taking a Bead on Bambi

BambiFirst Walt Disney and after that the outpouring of Saturday morning cartoon fare for children has raised us a generation of non-hunters. The Bambi-Generation, well-meaning but uninformed, they see each backyard creature in humanized terms. Lovable little animals with voices cringe from the bad old NRA Elmer Fudds that rational sportsmen have become.


And nature, being an opportunity-based force, rewarded us with city parks and golf courses plagued with Canada geese, suburban gardens ravaged by Bambi and a resurgence of predator types from foxes to coyotes to the occasional edge-of-town-lurking mountain lion.


Those who used to suit up on weekends to disrupt this or that form of hunting activity, now lie abed at night in their suburban homes and, if they listen closely, hear the muffled munching of Brer Rabbit in whatever serves for the backyard briar patch. It's interesting and instructive to watch the Bambi-Generation come up against the reality of living in a relatively predator-free suburban environment. Animal rights are giving (ever so slight) way to the every day experience of an urban life that strives to coexist with a perpetually encroaching wildlife.


The Chicago area, where I hail from originally, got a taste of what was to come nationally, some twenty or thirty years ago. Chicago and, specifically, Cook County prides itself on the extensive Cook County Forest Preserve District it pulled around its broad shoulders some seventy years ago. Virtually a wilderness shawl, another of Chicago’s unique preservations of green space. The district encompasses some 67,000 acres, 77 times the size of New York's Central Park.


BrowselineThat luxury used to hold within its boundaries an almost unlimited natural wonderland, abundant in the spring with trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, primrose and wild phlox. Black and raspberry shrubs, cranberry, dogwood, redbud and countless other native plants are mostly absent today from Cook County's’s forest preserves.


A ‘browse line’ some four feet off the ground evidences such all inclusive destruction of wild underplantings that it looks as if man himself had been clearing and cutting. It looks far too neat for nature. Thousands of varieties of native species are at risk to overpopulating deer, who no longer have natural enemies to pare their numbers.


Hunting seasons in and around urban areas are sneaking back into the allowed rhetoric, although we’ve largely lost our hunting dads to the Bambi-Generation. Possibly we'll import hunting instructors from the Austrian Tyrol as we now hire Swiss ski-instructors. These loden-clad Europeans might work through the language barrier to infiltrate the hunting barrier amongst our young and inexperienced.


Thus might the frontier heritage long lost to our culture and our native woodlands be restored simultaneously.


DeerwindshieldAlmost 900 deer are killed annually within Cook County. It’s not a minor accident when a 260 pound deer comes through your windshield, particularly if it ends up in your or your child’s lap. Approximately 150 people a year lose their lives to deer collisions nationwide and nearly $1 billion is spent repairing bashed-up cars. Hunting the population down to manageable size has been the way of the world sine there have been deer and geese.


Just because we have shed our hunting instinct to the humanization of Disney's Enchanted Forest doesn’t mean that the hunting solution is no longer valid.
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A bunch more environmental issues muddying the waters on my personal web site.