I’m not sure on what range the deer and antelope were playing when Gene Autry and Roy Rogers popularized the song ‘Home on the Range’ Wherever it was, I think it has expanded considerably. Now they are playing in my backyard, and probably yours, as well as in our parks, farmlands and environmental sanctuaries and open space areas.
I’m not sure they are ‘playing’ either; more like searching for hard to find food given their mushrooming population. They are beautiful, and a pleasure to watch, but sadly, in their struggle to survive, they are denuding our forest floors of young saplings and eliminating the reproduction of its trees. As older trees die off, no new trees will be replacing them.
According to the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation, there is a population of about one million white-tailed deer in New York State. Gordon Batcheller, head of the NYSDEC’s Bureau of Wildlife, says about 230,000 were killed by hunters and 60,000 to 80,000 were killed on highways. The DEC has had a Deer Management plan for decades with a goal of balancing deer with their habitat, human land uses and recreational interests. After seeking public comment throughout 2011 at more than 20 public meetings and conducting surveys of hunters, the DEC developed the Management Plan for White-Tailed Deer in New York state for 2012 – 2016. It is predicated on hunting being the most effective way of managing deer. This plan can be viewed at their website: http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/wildlife_pdf/deerplan2012.pdf.
Among the changes to the old plan is an expansion of the bow-hunting season – starting about 5 weeks earlier in early to mid-October of 2012. To address the fact that the number of hunters has been declining and the average age of hunters has been rising, the DEC is scheduling a special bow hunting weekend for teenagers to help recruit more young people to hunting. The new Deer Management Plan also addresses alternative buck harvesting strategies and fertility control of deer. The DEC Deer Management Program provides some very interesting and compelling reading and is worth a look.
By the way, Antelope is a term that refers to many even-toed ungulate species indigenous to various regions in Africa and Eurasia. Where did Gene Autry and Roy Rogers ever run into them playing?