Many of us still derive our feelings about deer from the famous 1942 Disney movie. We may have formed our image about hunters from the dark, fearsome image of the unseen presence that snuffed out, in an instant, the life of Bambi's mother in that movie.
And we are still delighted to watch deer go about their lives in close proximity to humans.
But the population boom among deer has been ongoing for several decades, and these days, it is common to observe deer in our backyards, in wooded areas behind office buildings along the Post Road, and, most dangerously to both deer and humans, on area roadways.
The Fairfield County Deer Management Alliance released a report last week that detailed the number of deer killed since 1999 in the 15-town area where it keeps records.
The report, covering the period from 1999-2004, shows that 80 deer were killed by motor vehicles in Westport, and 64 were killed in Weston, during that time.
Of course, it's not only the deer that are at risk. Deer strikes on area roads, most common in the spring and fall, cause extensive damage to cars, numerous injuries to drivers, and, every so often, a fatality, such as the Greenwich women who was killed recently when her car struck a deer.
Many people in Westport and Weston are particularly sensitive to animal-rights issues. During periods when Devil's Den in Weston is open to hunters, animal-rights protesters are out in force, walking through the woods to try to stop the hunt, and disputing vigorously any suggestion that the deer population needs to be "culled" by humans.
Some animal-rights spokespeople have even suggested to the Minuteman that they would rather see hunters shoot each other than shoot a deer.
It is sometimes suggested that deer strikes have increased over the past several years because humans are "intruding" on the animals' natural habitat. Humans are intruding, for sure, but they're not about to stop driving on the Post Road, or other thoroughfares where deer sometimes roam; it's way too late for society to return to the days when humans weren't around, and deer had Fairfield County largely to themselves.
In a perfect world, deer living in congested areas like Fairfield County would confine themselves, for their own safety and for the safety of humans, to woodlands and properties at some distance removed from busy roads. But as readers may have noticed, it's not a perfect world out there.
That being the case, it's far more humane, in our view, to reduce the deer population through hunting, or perhaps through birth-control methods that may be developed, than to let the deer continue to threaten people, and cause their own grisly deaths, by running "free" on area roads.