EDITORIAL: Will we listen to the deer?

TELL ME THIS IS ONLY some bad joke waiting to happen: Man sits in an easy chair reading a newspaper. He calls out to his spouse, “Look dear, they’ve prohibited hunting in the woods near the school.”

It’s good news and bad for different reasons. It’s what the Kinderhook Town Board did and didn’t do at the board’s monthly meeting last week. That’s when board members voted to place a 77-acre parcel and all other town-owned property off limits for any kind of hunting. The local law singles out some but not all suspect weapons. The list includes “a bow, shotgun and/or rifle,” in case someone might have misunderstood.

The land in question is along State Farm Road close to Volunteer Park. Anyone caught breaking this new law could face a fine of up to $250 or up to 15 days in jail or both. Kinderhook doesn’t have a jail, so a scofflaw hunter would probably have to serve his or her sentence in the Columbia County Jail in Greenport.

As of last week the board was still wondering how to discourage hunting on the 77 acres owned by the town. There’s also the fact that these particular woods lie nearby the largest school district in the county—Ichabod Crane—not to mention the sports fields at the town park. This is not available as a place to collect trophy antlers or harvest venison.

Posting the park with “No Hunting” signs was brought up at the board meeting. That would be a good start. The board did consider that option last week but made no decision. True, it’s not hunting season at the moment, but here’s a modest suggestion: post the borders of the park lands NOW! Consider other options to improve security as soon as possible after the signs are in place.

And here are a few other modest observations: not all kids read well; that’s true for some adults too. Make the signs simple and straightforward. Consult with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Also, bilingual signs might help.

But don’t stop there. Instead, think of it as a learning opportunity for the whole community as well as a safety precaution lesson. Climate science tell us that a warming planet will result in species changing their migration routes (if that’s the word for it), moving north to escape warmer water, earth and the air. Some of them will be welcome. Others, not so much. Perhaps a 77-acre natural laboratory would help our children, grandchildren and the generations that follow benefit from lessons their elders could not imagine.

The Town Board could just nail up a few plasticized signs and turn its attention to more pressing steps. But that won’t protect residents and visitors. The deer who live in a forest without predators face microbial threats. And threats from the steady spread of human development are accompanied by more and more destructive and deadly car-deer accidents.

The deer and other wild animals in Kinderhook are not an enemy but they are sending us a message. We ignore it at our peril.

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