Death in the Wissahickon

As a resident of Chestnut Hill I am shocked ad saddened by the recent killing of white tailed deer in the Wissahickon Valley.

Nature ensures that deer populations are limited by available food, territory and winter weather conditions, which restrict both food and range. As the size of the deer community increases, there is less food and leafy shelter available for each deer. Numerous studies over the years have shown that both the reproductive rate and the survival rate of deer will then decrease. Thus, a natural balance will occur.

There’s a biological reason why hunting can cause the numbers to rise. In large populations, deer conceive later in the season, and that results in late-born fawns with a reduced chance of surviving through the winter. So, although hunting reduced the population in the immediate sense, it stimulates early reproduction and augments the changes for survival in the next generation. Hunting- whether it’s focused on female or male deer- will mean more food remains for the survivors. The natural response in deer, biologists explain, is an increase in the birth rate.

Often deer are blamed for deforestation when the major cause is the human population, particularly agribusiness. Supporting plans to kill off deer won’t solve the deforestation problem, but adopting a vegetarian diet will help. This is because an acre of land dedicated to vegetables will normally support well over ten times the protein yield as an acre allotted to cattle  grazing. Deforestation is a serious issue; we should be taking it seriously by addressing its key causes. In addition with many of our fellow humans taking over land for building homes, the deer are driven closer to homes and roads in the neighborhood in order to survive.

Why is such an inhumane, unnatural event of killing deer continue to occur in our neighborhood year after year? I consider myself fortunate to live near the park and welcome the deer to my garden, where I have planted deer safe plants.

I welcome your thoughts on this important issue. Can Chestnut Hill target this “deer culling” as an issue to address with our Mayor, legislators and other? You can get more information at

by Mary Ann Baron
Philadelphia Advocates for the Deer  

One response to “Death in the Wissahickon

  1. I have known and hiked the trails of the Wissahickon since the the 1970’s, but once the The “Fiends” of the Wissahickon officially sanctiontioned mountain bikes (actually, if my memory is correct, they took a spineless “let’s allow them access and wait and see” – HOW MANY YEARS DO YOU NEED TO SEE? ) to use designated trails only, the effects have been a total disaster. I no longer can hike my favorite trails as ALL have been destroyed by these bikers. Very few, if any stay on trails designated for bikes, and even where it is a combined use path the majority of encounters I have had, I was bullied off the trail to let them pass. Even more appalling, when I encountered them way up on narrow foot paths for hikers only, I was almost hit by those rude destructos who then curse at me for being in their way! Many of these bikers think of the park only as a gym for a good workout, and care nothing for all the plants, trees, birds and animals whose environment they are destroying and terrorizing with the noise they usually make yelling back and forth to each other in order to carry on a conversation while pedaling at breakneck speeds. Finally, they are now killing some of the oldest trees we have there, as their tires have cut such deep ruts into the ground. In some areas you will find cuts as deep as four feet that have cut right through all the poor trees’ roots! So while people blame the deer for killing the saplings and ground cover, I wonder if there is any sanity left in this world. I met a woman visiting from Europe who was utterly astounded that mountain bikes were even permitted in the park, as no parks do so there. She said in her local park some citizens wanted access for their bikes, but because they are so destructive to the environment, the only compromise offered was to create a separate paved trail restricted for the bikes only. The bikers gave up, as they did not want to ride on a paved trail, as that would have spoiled all the fun of the rough riding!

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