Watch out for the deer!
If you have been reading Jenny’s Penny’s, you know that my family and I moved to the New Wilmington area about 2 years ago. One of the things that my husband and I noticed right away was the phrase “Watch out for the deer!” Every time we would be leaving friends or families homes it was inevitable that someone, sometimes multiple people, would say the infamous phrase. Waiting to hear this phrase became a bit of a secret game for us, we would take bets on who or how many people would lovingly warn us to lookout for the illusive herbivore waiting to viciously jump in front of our car!
Well, I don’t know how long it takes to become a local, but if taking up local phrases has anything to do with it we can check off the box that says: person has begun saying “watch out for the deer” when friends and family are leaving for the night. I don’t know if I will ever replace y’all with yins, and trust me, I am well aware that that may be a deal breaker for me becoming a local to my community, but I have begun to think more about the wildlife in our area and why this phrase has become such a mainstay in the culture. So, it is my pleasure to invite you to read a small piece inspired by the nature around us for this month’s edition of Jenny’s Penny’s.
While listening to a Pod Cast this week the topic of Conservation versus Preservation came up when the narrator was telling the story of the National Parks. In my mind the terms had been used so often, basically in the same context I didn’t realize there actually was a difference. Well, I was wrong and perhaps some of you may have been misinformed as well, so I will attempt to clarify the concept. Conservation is generally associated with the protection of natural resources while allowing the use of nature to ensure sustainability for future generations. Preservation, on the other hand, seeks to protect nature from use entirely and seeks to eliminate human impact all together. If you are looking to hear a bit of history, I highly recommend the Pod Cast called American History Tellers and their series on the National Parks.
This series made me immediately think of our town. New Wilmington is the perfect example of where Conservation and Preservation can work in tandem to make a better community for all. As we drive along the quiet roads, sometimes around an Amish buggy or tractor, we can see Conservation first hand. Farmers in our community are continually working to sustain a renewable resource whether it be crops, livestock, or timber. Amish work hard to preserve their way of life in an everchanging landscape of technological advances. When you research the difference between conservation and preservation you inevitably find that the two circles ultimately overlap. It is nearly impossible to separate the two camps of thought. Even if a person is a staunch preservationist, they still tend to want to use the resource for the enjoyment of this and future generations. What good would preserving the Grand Canyon be if no one was ever allowed to go experience its glory? The biggest question that todays environmentalists face is how to best ensure the continued enjoyment of resources for all to experience.
Throughout the history of our state hunting, fishing, and trapping has been a huge part of not only recreation, but survival as well. Many pelts and animals were, and still are traded or sold to be shipped around the world for the comfort of people both locally and in far off lands. A famous painting by Benjamin West depicts William Penn and the local Indians where both parties were equally excited to establish trade opportunities. The Dutch and Swedish settlers especially were very eager to expand a fur trade with the local tribes to keep up with the demand for fur in their home countries and elsewhere. The need for fur was acute in a world where the fur was depended on for warmth in the winter months. Back in those days little thought was given to the species being hunted, after all in their minds this new land had endless supplies of resources for all to take advantage of. Inevitably, with over hunting many species were either forced further west or eliminated completely. No one can look back in history and say that the settlers were ensuring the longevity of any resource for years to come, thankfully that mistake has been rectified.
It is easy to for us to forget how difficult it used to be to get much needed resources like fur and meat that were necessary for survival. We stroll into our local store and pick up clothes and food with the swipe of our bank cards. Throughout history fur was a natural resource that could be hunted or farmed to supply all levels of people with warmth and comfort. Everyone from the peasant to the king required fur for blankets and clothing, the quality of fur would differ from class to class.
Why does any of this matter now you ask? While we no longer depend on fur or wild game exclusively to meet our needs, many people still believe that keeping the traditions of hunting, fishing, and trapping alive for future generations is important. It is also important to note that hunting and trapping certain furbearing animals such as raccoons, foxes, and coyotes is important because these animals carry various diseases such as rabies, distemper, and mange. Helping to control the populations of these varieties of animals can curb the risk for not only humans, but domesticated animals as well. Many parts of the world still depend on fur for warmth and protection from the elements. Not everyone depends on Carhart or North Face to keep warm.
So, what does Western Pennsylvania have to offer to their residents for hunting, fishing, and trapping you may ask? Well, hopefully I can introduce just a little taste of what our area has to offer. We should also thank the Game Commission and the Department of Natural Resources who work tirelessly to keep the balance between man and nature in check.
Pennsylvania currently has over 1.5 million acres of state game lands regulated by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. In Lawrence County alone, approximately 4,000 acres are managed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission for all to enjoy. The Pennsylvania Game Commission has a program called “Working Together for Wildlife” that was established to help support wildlife management for endangered and non-game animals. Pennsylvania spends nearly 7 million dollars a year to improve wildlife habitat in our state. Many organizations have been established to help outdoorsmen of all ages to get involved with nature and a great deal of programs are even free. If you want to learn to fly fish, kayak, canoe, hunt, trap, archery, train dogs for tracking, etc. an organization is out there to help you to do it. Youth Field Days are offered where kids can be introduced to fishing, archery, shooting, trapping, and survival lessons and much more for no cost. As stewards of our community, it is our responsibility to ensure that our resources can be enjoyed for generations to come.
While I know that many people today do not believe in hunting, it is something that actually has benefits to the species involved. It is illegal to hunt, fish, or trap species that are endangered or protected. If it weren’t for outdoorsmen that enjoy recreational hunting, the populations would multiply where the resources they need for survival would be more than the area could sustain. One of the reasons we need to say “watch out for the deer” is due to the abundant population of deer in our environment.
The limit of certain licenses based on species estimates as well as the season lengths are adjusted from year to year based on population for the area. Trapping in the area is seasonal and many people sell their pelts to other parts of the world to this day. I know that in our community some are able to boast themselves third or fourth generation trappers and continue to pass that tradition along to their children. Our area also has other opportunities like beagle clubs where the dogs are judged based on how they “hunt” the rabbit, but the handler doesn’t actually kill the rabbit.
No matter what your personal stance is on hunting, fishing, or trapping, I for one am impressed with how many opportunities are in our area to get involved with the outdoors. Our local Wildlife Agents work tirelessly to be sure that the areas under their protection are being used in a responsible way for the enjoyment of animals and humans alike. I hope we can all look fondly on the natural wonders all around us while we live our busy lives. There is likely some critter looking from behind the tree line thankful for a beautiful place to call home. Thank you for taking the time to read another one of Jenny’s Penny’s and please, watch out for the deer!