Every year in late fall and early winter, deer overpopulation becomes a hot topic on the East End. Many reasons are cited and numerous plans are argued. Friends and neighbors get in heated discussions about the need for more comprehensive deer management (the need to harvest) vs. leaving them alone.
Along with the decimation of backyard plants and gardens, we suffer many deer-related automobile accidents as a result of this overpopulation. Please don’t get confused—deer are causing these accidents not by driving, but by running out in the middle of the road.
While I am not a biologist, I believe that the majority of these deer vs. car calamities are caused because most East End deer are severely hearing impaired.
It is well known that deer have a very keen sense of hearing. One only needs to look at the size of their ears, which look and act like miniature satellite dishes, to grasp the extent of their hearing. In fact, their hearing is many times more acute than a human’s. On the other hand, their eyesight is far below that of a humans. And so, in normal conditions, when a deer is considering crossing the road, they listen for the traffic and then proceed when they believe it is safest.
However, when deer are suffering from acute hearing loss, traversing a road becomes nothing short of a crapshoot. When they can’t hear the traffic, they often end up causing an accident.
What is the cause of this hearing loss among our hooved friends? I believe it is the elevated noise levels from unrelenting air-traffic at the East Hampton Airport. Unlike humans, deer are not protected from the noise by four walls and a roof. They do not have the capacity or resources to wear earplugs or earmuffs. They can’t escape the noise by taking a vacation in Tahiti. They are constantly being bombarded without refuge, especially in the summer, by the sound of jet engines and helicopter blades.
As responsible citizens, we need to commission a study to determine the effect of airport noise on our local deer population. To assist us in our research, if you find a dead deer carcass, cut off the head, place it in a plastic bag and drop it off at the Dan’s Papers office. We will have a postmortem autopsy performed to determine if, prior to death, there was evidence of hearing loss.
Though this type of hearing study might be unheard of, if my hypothesis is correct, it could open the door for scores of lawsuits against the airport from those who have been involved in deer-related automobile accidents on the East End.
If we can get the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation involved, they may have the power to shut down the airport all together, saving thousands of deer, automobiles and people.
Backyard plants and gardens will not be so lucky.