At one point in history, seeing a deer would be a rarity. I’ve read that, at the beginning of the 20th century, there were only about 500,000 white-tailed deer in all of North America. Nowadays, there are something like 25 to 40 million in the US, and growing. As far as I can tell, deer in these parts have gotten to be more plentiful than rabbits, and far more destructive. (A rabbit can’t total a car, for instance.)
Deer are intelligent and have discovered that the safest place to live is near humans, particularly in suburban areas, where their risk of being hunted or preyed upon is small.
Deer like the tasty and delicate plants that we spend money on to decorate our yards. They enjoy using our stairs when the snow on their own dirt paths is unshoveled. According to Russell Baker, deer have been called “a mass transit system for ticks carrying Lyme disease.”
Other animals besides deer have forsaken the wild. In his sometimes hilarious review of Jim Sterba’s book, Nature Wars, Baker recounts how beavers, feral cats, coyotes, super-sized Canadian geese, skunks, foxes, ‘wild turkeys’, and even bear have gradually been discovering the benefits of civilized living, with startling effects for the humans they choose to live near. (Did you know that geese need to defecate 5 times an hour?)
My younger sister mentioned to me lately that there is even a new urban animal called the ‘coy-wolf’ that is a cross between the (western) wolf and (eastern) coyote. Coywolves have been seen in Chicago and are sometimes aggressively hostile toward humans. (You can watch a PBS video about the coywolf here.)
Do you have neighbors who are, in truth, wild animals?