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Jack Knox column: Watch it, deer, you could be next on hit list

May 20 2012

Startled, I froze in the doorway, key still in hand. Someone was in the house.

"Hey, you look like me in the headlights," called a voice from inside.

Burglar? Axe murderer? No, I should be so lucky.

The home was dark save for the glow from the computer, but I could still see his antlers silhouetted against the screen.

I sighed. "How did you

get in, Buck?"

He ignored the question, turned his gaze back to the laptop. "Not sure I like these bikini shots of Wayne Gretzky's daughter," he said. "She kind of looks like Wayne. Creeps me out a little."

Buck really was becoming a techno-deer. Used to be he would break into my house and watch TV, toggling between the National Geographic and Discovery channels - "the porn stations," he called them - but now he prefers streaming video. That's why you see so many urban deer edging into downtown: free Wi-Fi.

"I'm citified," he said, reading my mind.

"You're lucky I'm citified, too," I told him. "Back home, if a deer was smart enough to find its way into the garden, we weren't dumb enough to let it out." "I'm shaking," he deadpanned, flicking his little black tail.

"Don't push it," I said. "I know it was you who chewed my hostas to the ground."

He rolled his big brown eyes. "Give me a break. You didn't even know what a hosta was until she told you I ate them."

He had me there, so I changed the subject. "Let's go down to the breakwater, dangle your hooves in the water. Do octopi like venison?"

Buck shuddered. He had seen the YouTube of the Ogden Point Massacre.

"Don't joke," he said. "That gull was a good personal friend of mine. You know the downtown business association had him whacked, right?"

Right, I forgot Buck was a conspiracy freak. Don't get him going about smart meters.

"You people want to kill us all," he insisted. It was my turn to roll my eyes.

"First they came for the bunnies-" he intoned, striking a pose of wounded righteousness, though the effect was diminished by the ear buds tangled in his horns.

Well, yes, we did give the UVic bunnies the Beothuk treatment. And we've been trying to Red Zone the downtown gulls, the ones that whitewash the sidewalks with toxic waste. And critics say the CRD's deer management committee appears intent on "managing" Buck in the same manner that John Wilkes Booth "managed" Abraham Lincoln.

But just look at the proliferation of urban wildlife: bears in Burnaby, coyotes in Vancouver, rats, skunks, toads, weasels and vipers in Ottawa. Victoria has been blanketed by invasive species - grey squirrels, bullfrogs, Albertans - its parks and beaches fouled by Canada geese that, each identical to the next, multiply like Agent Smith in The Matrix.

You know where you don't find wildlife?

In the wild.

The deer population on Vancouver Island has been steadily dropping, from 200,000 in 1987, to 124,000 in 1994, to maybe 50,000 today, according to government figures. Guess we weren't supposed to cut down all the trees.

This is not a local issue, of course. The WWF - the one with the panda, not the wrestlers - this week released the latest version of the Living Planet Index, which shows an average 30 per cent drop in key animal populations around the globe between 1970 and 2008. The number of tigers has fallen 70 per cent in 30 years. Bluefish tuna are in danger of extinction.

The report blames overconsumption, saying we are devouring renewable resources 1.5 times faster than the Earth can replenish them. The countries with the worst ecological footprint per person are Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, but Canada, at No. 8, is right up there. Yeah baby, Top 10.

"Are you happy," Buck said with a glare. "Anything else you would like to exterminate, a whooping crane perhaps, a killer whale, maybe shoot a grizzly for its gall bladder?"

I glared back. "Just stay out of my hostas."

jknox@timescolonist.com

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