I went to a meeting of INFORMED LAND OWNERS the other night, because, well, I lack both land and information and I was looking for a handout. The technical term for the meeting was “Deer In The Headlights: Pest Populations and Suburban Sprawl” but my Palm Pilot understood it as the “How Do We Send Bambi To Hell Before She F-cks With the Grill Of My Car” meeting.
See, like all good lawyers, I care. Specifically, I care about gin, but I do like taking part in civic activities now and then. Some lawyers care about death penalty issues, others about reproductive rights. I did my dissertation on urban development, and I’m just that exciting of a guy, so I care about land use.
The Informed Land Owners meeting started before I arrived, because I care but I don’t set my watch. Or pay attention to it. And, well, I was tired after going to the gym. So, I came in a few minutes after the field biologist the group had rented from the state university had already begun discussing the exponential rise of pest populations (specifically, deer, Canadian geese, raccoons, opossum, skunks, Eastern Coyotes, and the like). I whipped out my travel size moleskine notebook and jotted down some points.
Deer. Bad. Need To Shoot.
Sterilization doesn’t work (see Bobbitt, Lorena).
All maxed out = 40 years.
Turkeys, man. We’re doomed.
Flying squirrels. Kill the elderly.
Other than indicating that I may be the homicidal incarnation of Marty Stoeffer, these notes indicate little. So, let me extrapolate.
Deer. Bad. Need To Shoot.
The population of deer in New Jersey is something like 200+ deer per square mile, which is particularly bad if they happen to live in your square mile. Deer, to some, are nice and pretty and such, but to me they’re nothing more than long-legged rodents with good PR. In that regard, they’re not that different from Kate Moss. However, if you’ve hit a deer while driving – say, hypothetically, of course, a 1998 Mercury Sable at 75 miles per hour – down Route 520 at 11:00 at night, you look at deer as a serious, oh-my-god-an-antler-almost-went-through-my-head problem. And you’ll be filled with hate, which, as we all know, is good.
A large portion of the audience at this meeting, besides the other exciting land use lawyers, were senior citizens. I don’t just mean the “We’re over 55 and the AARP discount seems kind of cool” senior citizen crowd. I mean the “We eat at buffets and have nothing better to do but show up at town meetings” crowd. So, when one of these elders-I-should-respect-but-don’t asked “What about sterilizing the deer?” I felt a good deal of sympathy for the field biologist.
“Well, it costs $800 per deer to sterilize, and there’s also the logistical problem of catching and doing a tubal ligation on a fast moving buck.”
Right, I thought, they had the same problem with guys who listen to disco.
“Shooting the deer,” the field biologist continued, “is a better solution, even though people feel awkward about it. It’s more efficient, as it only costs about $300 a head for a professional to do it, and there are also amateurs that pay – for licenses, that is – to do it.”
The walker and motorized wheelchair crowd let out a murmur of disapproval.
I thought about my car and resolved to get a Mossberg.
All Maxed Out = 40 Years
This cryptic little gem refers to the point the field biologist made regarding New Jersey’s development progress. New Jersey, the most densely populated State in the Union, will have hit maximum development (when all usable land has been used) in 40 years or so. At first, this horrified me, and I thought about speeding up my plan to move to Jackson, Wyoming. Then, I thought of something.
In forty years, it can’t get any worse here. We’re talking progress, people.
Turkeys, Man. We’re Doomed.
One of the pest species discussed by the field biologist was the turkey, a species that also goes by the nickname of “dinner.” Apparently, these birds are aggressive and territorial. Again, I realized that a 20 pound turkey, which is great in November, is not great in the front grill of the aforementioned Sable.
The field biologist also brought up the issue of imported pest species. Snakeheads – the evil Asian fish that apparently can cross land and sully the virtue of farmers’ daughters – were just the tip of the iceberg. Killer bees. Burmese Pythons are being dumped in the Everglades. Bengal tigers in Southern New Jersey. Accountants. “We’re so screwed!” I shrieked.
I started envisioning a dystopic, William Gibson-esque future where the great sprawl that is New Jersey – and then, as the other states hit their maximum density – along with DC, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut is preyed upon by roving bands of turkeys. Discarded newspapers blow along futuristic, gritty streets as a menacing gobble can be heard to emanate from a dark alleyway.
Flying Squirrels. Kill The Elderly.
As the field biologist went on about our horrifying turkey-ridden future, rattling off population expectations for deer, turkey, and Canadian Geese (a.k.a., “shit factories”), I noticed a hand come up from the audience. It was a member of the older crowd.
“What’s the population of flying squirrels in Monmouth County?” She asked.
I groaned. She had a huge, John Wayne Gacy-like smile.
“Well, the squirrel population is another pest population that we consider to be growing,” the field biologist said, glossing over her question.
“No, no, I mean flying squirrels,” the woman tittered as she talked. I considered getting up and hitting her on the head with my folding chair.
“I, um, I’m pretty sure that our surveys didn’t single out flying squirrels for counting,” the field biologist said.
“I have twenty-three of them,” the woman said.
And you’re about to have a folding chair-inflicted head wound, I thought.
“Well, I guess you know the population of flying squirrels in the county, then,” the field biologist said.
The field biologist had been peppered with these similar, nice, meaningless comments and questions throughout the night.
“How about poisoning the deer with bad fruit?”
Bad fruit? What, did your stewed prunes disagree with you this morning?
“What about making the deer our pets?”
“What kind of snake lives in my backyard?”
My favorite colloquy: “So, how come no deer die of natural causes along roads?” a gentleman asked. He had thick glasses and a comb-over.
“Do you go around giving deer autopsies?” The field biologist asked in reply.
“No, but where do deer die?”
“Wherever they happen to be standing at the time,” the field biologist said.
I was the only one.
Author’s Note: No elderly people were hurt in the making of this post. We at Unbillable Hours do not advocate the killing of the elderly, so please don’t write to us in protest.