Deer and the Simplicity Principle

Yesterday an op-ed piece I wrote ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Sharing it on Facebook, Harold Brown observed that the best answer to a problem—in this case, the claim that suburban Philadelphia has too many deer—can be right in front of us all along.

Letting the indigenous deer be and at the same time enabling coyotes and bobcats, their natural predators, to live and thrive is the simple, environmentally obvious response; yet reporters, policymakers (including the author of Valley Forge Park’s Environmental Impact Statement and Management Plan), and people who type into Internet comment fields have all used the term reintroduction of predators as though something complicated would have to be done. Coyotes and bobcats are already here. It’s strange how one can write this plainly—coyotes and bobcats are already here—and people will still react, time and time again, to the idea of reintroduction, which is not being proposed.

One of the e-mail messages I received in response to the column came from an It's their home. Let them roamInquirer reader who says it’s infeasible to have coyotes “used for animal control” because they are “aggressive and hard to control…” It seems this reader got the idea of an extermination firm coming in with a trained pack of coyotes.

Respecting the balance of communities in habitats is a simple idea, a common-sense concept. When it comes to respecting nature, people appear to lean heavily to making the most simple answer seem the most complex.