I live in a suburban neighborhood that, lately, has seen an overpopulation of deer. They’re everywhere! It makes driving dangerous, particularly at night. Moreover, they destroy my yard and gardens. I own a rifle and believe I could safely shoot them in my backyard, which would help the overall neighborhood. Am I allowed?
Deer overpopulation is aggravating and often dangerous, and an increasing problem for many communities, particularly in New England and the Mid-Atlantic. In most suburban areas, however, hunting is prohibited.
Even if you are a skilled hunter and licensed gun owner, the safety concerns are obvious – a stray bullet could miss a deer and hit someone’s car, or worse, a person standing in their yard. Moreover, deer overpopulation is generally a much broader problem than what a single individual with a rifle can solve. Deer reproduce quickly and often live in large packs.
The criminal and civil risk you take by using your gun in a suburban area is far greater than the potential reward of slightly lowering the deer population. Many states, like New Jersey, do hire licensed hunters to help control the deer population by hunting in specific areas. Hunting is usually only one part of a multifaceted strategy for deer population control.
Depending on state laws, your town officials can engage in a variety of efforts, such as “trapping and transferring” deer from dangerous areas, like suburbs, to areas further from human populations. Officials will also use chemical fertility agents, ingested by deer, which inhibit their ability to reproduce. Where possible, the government and local overpopulation control companies try to ensure that the deer meat is given to local food pantries, which welcome the venison.
All of this is to say that deer overpopulation is a problem best addressed by your local or state government. If you are noticing an overpopulation of deer, chances are, you’re not the only one. See if you can get consensus around the problem and perhaps write a petition to your town government, or attend the next town council meeting. Convince your elected representatives that some money should be allocated to devising a broad strategy to address the problem. This is a safer – and more effective – use of your time than reaching for a rifle.