Animal Rights

The New Case for Hunting

Hunters, tree-huggers, and animal welfare advocates should be allies.

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Rock Island, Ill., a city of 39,000 on the Mississippi River, provides an array of attractions, including a liberal arts college, a historic district, a casino and a botanical garden. It also offers the latest urban amenity: deer hunting.

Last month, the city council voted to allow bow hunters to harvest a species that has grown too numerous for comfort. Excessive deer herds have thronged yards, decimated landscaping and damaged cars in unplanned collisions. "We had reports of groups as big as 17," Mayor Dennis Pauley told me.

So come Dec. 13, licensed hunters who meet a proficiency requirement and obtain a permit can hunt in approved places from elevated platforms (to assure that misfired arrows go harmlessly into the ground). The program follows similar ones in the nearby Iowa towns of Davenport and Bettendorf, which have culled hundreds of animals and apparently succeeded in reducing their deer populations.

Rock Island is responding to a common problem. White-tailed deer, once hunted nearly to extinction in the state, now abound in numbers greater than when Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet arrived in 1673. Local officials across the country have decided that skilled archers are a cheap and effective way to stop having too much of a bad thing.

City-dwellers are not known for being fond of blood sports. As the nation has grown less rural, the number of hunters has declined. People raised on "Bambi" tend to recoil at the notion of shooting deer or other game animals. But a convergence of developments makes it more plausible than ever for the skeptical to find virtues in hunting.

One notable movement in recent years has been growing awareness of the evils of factory farming, which often subjects animals to cramped cages, a near-total lack of stimulation, cruel treatment and awful deaths. Many national restaurant and grocery chains have stopped buying from pork producers that confine pigs and hens in unconscionably small spaces.

One alternative to meat supplied by inhumane industrial operations is to become a vegetarian. Another option is to eat meat from wild animals — taken as they roam freely over hill and dale, far from artificial hormones, antibiotics and mountains of manure.

For carnivores averse to cruelty, hunting is about as good as it gets. Unlike conventionally raised livestock, game animals move about at will, live by their instincts and avoid a terrifying journey to a giant slaughterhouse.

It may seem mean to abruptly snuff out a beast's life before its allotted time is up. But death in nature is typically far more brutal — coming from disease, starvation or razor-fanged predators. As humans encounter deer more as pests and hazards, sentimental notions tend to give way to a clear-eyed view that puts hunting in perspective.

"What's wrong with eating animals is the practice, not the principle," wrote Michael Pollan in his best-selling 2006 book "The Omnivore's Dilemma," deploring industrial methods of meat production. "People who care about animals should be working to ensure that the ones they eat don't suffer." Every meal that features venison instead of chicken or pork is a plus for animal welfare.

From an environmental standpoint, too, human predation serves valuable ends. "The deer had chewed through the understory of the Hidden Valley (Ind.) woodlands, devastating habitat for other wildlife, and their feces were raising bacteria levels in the town lake," reported Time magazine about a town that decided to allow hunting.

Deer, however, are a petty nuisance compared to feral pigs, which now number some 5 million and which the U.S. Department of Agriculture blames for a host of ecological harms—causing soil erosion, polluting waterways, spreading invasive plants and contributing to the decline of endangered species. The Environmental Protection Agency says a typical wild hog, over its lifetime, destroys 10 acres of wetlands.

So destructive and abundant are these pests that San Jose, Calif., decided recently to legalize hunting of them. Texas allows feral pigs to be killed all year, day or night, in unlimited quantity — even strafed from helicopters.

In the absence of people, nature would establish its own balance among species. But having shaped (and disrupted) the natural environment so extensively, humans can't very well wash their hands of responsibility for what happens when certain species over-expand. Hunting is one way to keep wildlife numbers in check, for the good of people, plants, land and other animals.

For a long time, hunters, tree-huggers and animal welfare advocates have often operated as though they were adversaries. They actually should be allies.

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  1. A while back there was a deer problem on a local island, so the government hired a professional to cull the herd. Because the deer weren’t killed by licensed hunters in season, all the meat had to be destroyed. It came as a shock to the islanders who were looking forward to having some venison in their freezers. See what you get when you ask government to do something for you?

    1. Mission Accomplished??

    2. Somewhere, a native american is crying.

      1. did some lucky gambler hit a big score at the craps table ?

        1. No, someone picked up the garbage that lined the rez wall to wall and now he can’t find his house.

    3. Regret?

  2. For a long time, hunters, tree-huggers and animal welfare advocates have often operated as though they were adversaries. They actually should be allies.

    But they won’t be, because this isn’t about animal welfare or hugging trees. It’s about KULTUR WAR. This is a case of (typically) TEAM BLUE urban dwellers not wanting their more rural (typically) TEAM RED hated opponents to be able to do something they enjoy. You can sit there and talk about how it’s better for the deer until you’re blue (hah) in the face, and they won’t give two shits. In their minds, all they think is “fucking rednecks like hunting–they shouldn’t be allowed!”.

    It really is that pathetic.

    1. Occasionally you’ll hear these TEAM BLUE idiots say that the way to fix deer overpopulation is to reintroduce predators. Because apparently they want wolf packs roaming their neighborhoods? The only explanation I can come up for this is that rednecks hate the idea, so they’re for it.

      1. Are they too stupid to understand that humans are the predator? Of course they are.

        But yeah, they’ll propose anything, no matter how stupid, as long as it’s something that denies the rednecks their fun and isn’t anything that would meet them halfway. Because this is about being petty tribal children, and nothing else.

        1. also buy introducing predators other than humans requires massive government spending and multiple studies by professors both before and after the introduction. all things that progs are for.

          1. The Human predators actually provide the governments with an income stream.

      2. I wouldn’t care if wolf packs did roam middle class suburban neighborhoods. Though if they caused me any static, they would be killed just like the deer.

        1. Death Rock and Skull, Dude-Man Sir I presume, but I might be wrong, you say:
          “I wouldn’t care if wolf packs did roam middle class suburban neighborhoods. Though if they caused me any static, they would be killed just like the deer.”
          Well, I am sorry to report to you, there are a butt-load of “human wolves” out there that looks at you and me and all tax-paying, law-abiding humanoids as just nothing more than so many more bunny-wabbbits to their wolfishness? Meat to be consumed! If we want to get our hair cut by an un-licensed barber, or we want to smoke some pot that has been approved by our state voters but not by Emperor Oh-Butt-Hole? Then we bunny wabbbitts must be consumed by the human wolves! Can you PLEASE go out and shoot a few of them? I would like to help you out in your endeavor, but I am old and tired and aching, so sad to say? But for what little it might be worth, you DO have my blessings to start shooting the “human wolves”!!!

          1. I’m your man! Dude-sir, bro.

      3. Because apparently they want wolf packs roaming their neighborhoods?

        It’s sad that we don’t have wolves (in Ohio at least). The supposed threat they pose is far overblown.

        1. Spoken like someone that wasn’t forced to live with them and have (for years) have no recourse for damages inflicted.

      4. They used wolf packs where I’m living, killing off not just a great deal of pricey livestock, as well as many beloved family pets, but a tradition of harvesting wild game animals to supplement families’ diets that goes back many centuries.

    2. Bingo: its a cultural thing. Of course their (stated) interests largely align.

      As a group, hunters spend vastly more out of their own pockets on habitat preservation and improvement than greenies do. They are also much more knowledgable about the animals and environment where they hunt.

      Even in “hunting” organizations like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which spends vast sums on habitat and the environment, you can see the disdain for hunters occasionally peek out from the non-hunters. Their motto used to be “Elk and the Hunt” or something like that. Imagine the surprise of their members when the motto printed on the cover of their magazine was something different a few years ago.

      Culture War, 100%.

      1. You see this in the recent Facebook blowup over the hot chick who posed with the dead lion. Try telling a save-the-earth type that people who like to shoot lions are the reason why there are still lions. They reactions are great.

        1. It’s almost as if people who gain from an activity have an deep seated interest in ensuring they can engage in it, or something.

          Hmmm. If only there was an analogous situation in other aspects of life.

          1. “Let’s all go overfish the lake, so I can’t do this any more!”

            Exactly – hunters are the best “conservationists”. Why do deer thrive in states that have hunting? WEIRD!!!

            1. my derp detector is off the charts

        2. I’m not a big fan of people hunting animals for purely trophy-collecting reasons, but lions aren’t even a threatened species, to the best of my knowledge. They’re survivors, they’re big and scary, and they tend to live in places where most humans don’t want to be, so they’re geared towards success.

          1. I think it’s ridiculous to have a guide drive someone up to an animal in order to get their approval that that is an animal that they agree to pay to shoot. The driver then has to back up away from the animal to make it “fair” and then the Great White Hunter” shoots the animal and then repairs to the lodge for cocktails. When he clears his check $2,000.00 to $10,000 is charged to his card for his “hunting trophy”.

        3. Michelle Bachman?

      2. “Culture War, 100%”

        Victimology, 200%. I feel for hunters and I empathize with them. They contribute more than their share, and are more knowledgeable than non hunters, yet are held in contempt. Add hunters to the growing list of societies victims to be pitied.

    3. That’s just it. The culture of rural hunters might be anathema to most progressive types, but by and large, those have always been among the most conservation-minded people you can know.

      1. When the outdoorsman type walks in the woods, he picks up the litter and trash he comes across.

        When the cosmopolitan type walks in the woods, he drops litter and demands the outdoorsman be taxed and regulated to clean it up.

        1. That’s about the size of it.

          There’s a big difference between those who live, work and recreate in the wild places, and those who feel good because they subscribe to nature magazines and donate to political action to manipulate what they have no understanding of.

          1. It’s mainly a matter of someone who owns some land vs. those who want to tell him what to do with his acres.

    4. I agree there are culture war elements to the issue, but I doubt your simplistic TEAM BLUE hatred of TEAM RED goes very far in helping us understand it. Sounds more to me you are riffing on the idiotic war on christmas victimology you see endlessly parroted here and other media.

      I was taken by the penultimate paragraph:

      “In the absence of people, nature would establish its own balance among species. But having shaped (and disrupted) the natural environment so extensively, humans can’t very well wash their hands of responsibility for what happens when certain species over-expand. Hunting is one way to keep wildlife numbers in check, for the good of people, plants, land and other animals.”

      This ‘balance of nature’ stuff is nonsense of course, I would have thought libertarians would have a more perceptive take on the issue. Hunting is one way, but another way is to make urban centres less attractive to wildlife by cutting down on our food wastage. It’s wasted food that brings deer to our cities, not the opera, ballet or the job opportunities.

      Some 20% of the food we buy is wasted according to some statistics I vaguely remember hearing somewhere. Cutting down on this figure should make our cities less attractive to wildlife as a place to forage. Cutting back on wasted food: that’s a solution one would think would unite all the TEAMS, but somehow it isn’t even presented here as an option. Is that culture wars at work?

  3. Got no problem with bow hunting per se, I just wish bow hunters would learn how to track. I’ve had four instances in the last couple years near my home in which I’ve come across wounded or dead game from bow hunters that were left to die. If you don’t have the skills to track down and finish what you’ve shot, you’ve got no business being out there.

    1. My cousin was a bow hunter (and he could track, too). He told me one of the benefits to bow hunting was getting a through and through to the lungs. Because it was relatively quiet, the deer would often bleed out while standing there. They knew something had happened, but didn’t know what, so they’d go back to eating until they toppled over.

      1. Deer are a strong contender for the title of stupidest animal on earth. It’s impossible to feel anything but contempt for an animal that manages to be so stupid and so cowardly, you know?

        1. What’s Shreek, chopped liver venison?

        2. Have you met the domesticated turkey?

          1. I don’t think turkeys are stupid, I think they’re suicidal.

            -jcr

    2. That’s one reason I quit bowhunting. I lost a deer. Its a lot easier with bowhunting than with a rifle. Sure, a good bow shot will lead to an easy recovery, but a bad bow shot (which is very easy to take) will lead to a wounded deer that can go a long way, and may be extraordinarily difficult to impossible to track.

      A good rifle shot lays the deer down in its tracks. Even a bad rifle shot is a hell of a lot easier to track than a bad bow shot.

      1. I’m a utility hunter, not a game hunter. Bow “hunting” is best for small animals found hibernating in the rafters of the tool shed.

  4. I can say as a resident of Rock Island County that people have no issue with hunting. Deer Hunting is an official pass time around here.

    1. Rock Island Armory 1911?

  5. “…and damaged cars in unplanned collisions.”

    Are there planned collisions with deer?

    1. There used to be a game warden near Richmond, VA who occasionally claimed people aim at deer with their automobiles. I don’t know if he’s gone or I’m just too far away now to hear about him.

      1. Yes, that makes sense. There must be plenty of people who want to get in a dangerous accident, total their cars, and possibly have a 150-250 lb animal come smashing through their windshield. Why wouldn’t you?

        1. Yeah, I always thought he was crazy. Fifteen (-ish) years ago one jumped the hood of my wife’s little car as she braked like crazy. Amazing how big he looked from the passenger seat of a Honda.

          1. I had a big doe, who was probably suffering from some dementia or parasite, just walk down an embankment and onto the road without looking or pausing, she just appeared out of the underbrush. The front right corner of my car caught her chin and snapped her neck, and then her sternum smashed right into my right front quarterpanel. It was a small car, like a Toyota Corolla, and the impact drove me clear into the oncoming lane. If there had been someone there, it would have been a head on collision. After the accident report (for insurance) the cop offered me the deer, as is customary in CT (and I assume other places), but I had no way to process her, so I had to decline.

            1. All you really need is a tree, a rope, and a sharp knife.

              …Come to think of it, that statement applies to most situations in life.

              1. I was renting half a house. I don’t think the owners, who lived in the other half, would have been happy with me stringing up a deer in the yard (there was no barn).

                1. Tree. Rope. Sharp knife.

                  1. I see what you did there…

            2. After the accident report (for insurance) the cop offered me the deer, as is customary in CT (and I assume other places), but I had no way to process her, so I had to decline.

              It used to be illegal to eat road kill in TN. The law was changed. Cue the headlines about dumb southern red necks eating road kill, despite the fact that it was legal to do it in numerous other states.

              Indeed, no less than The New York Times, wrote an editorial on the subject.

              1. Indeed, no less than The New York Times, wrote an editorial on the subject.

                I think the progressive minds at the New York Times are a better authority on your redneckness than you are. *cleans monocle*

      2. Well, I was just being a dick but now I’m genuinely curious. I actually live in Richmond, so I’ll ask around about this.

        1. I think he worked Goochland and Powhatan area. He would show up on the evening news and Charlie Fishburne would act like every word was to be taken seriously.

          1. Hah! Charlie and Lisa on Channel 6? This must have been a good long time ago. I don’t remember any of this.

            Speaking of 1980s Richmond news anchors, when I moved back to Richmond a few years ago I was stunned to see that Sabrina Squire was still on Channel 12 and LOOKED EXACTLY THE SAME AS SHE DID 20 YEARS AGO. Woman must be a vampire or something.

            1. Haha, the Richmond Vampire found. I guess they welded that tomb up for nothing.

      3. Maybe the statement was more along the lines of “Don’t veer for deer.” It is probably better to plow the deer straight on than to swerve off the road into a tree or ditch is the thinking.

    2. Why do they put the deer crossings on busy highways anyway? http://youtu.be/RFCrJleggrI

      1. I so hope she was kidding. No, I don’t think she is.

      2. I’m guessing Obama voter.

      3. I think she was put up to this as a spoof, in fact it is something I would think of to do.

  6. Do feral hogs make a tasty ham?

    1. I’ve often wondered this. Trying to know if I can make good bacon during the apocalypse.

      1. Bacon not so much. But they make excellent sausage. Mix about 25% regular pork fat into the meat as feral hog is very lean. Chops are great on the grill.

        Feral hogs are best when trapped live and fed out on corn for a couple of weeks before butchering. Unless you like acorn flavored pork.

    2. never made ham out of em. I smoked a juvenile though once, and it was frikkin awesome.

      I think the fully grown males can taste a little gamey some times. Rest of em are all good in my experience.

      1. Soak the meat in vinegar before cooking.

        Any hog can be made to taste quite delicious.

    3. Feral hogs are the same as domesticated hogs; they descend from escaped farm animals. They have a different diet and lifestyle, but the meat is quite good.

      1. Most feral hogs ( at least in Texas populations) have some Russian boar genetics mix in.

    4. I’m not aware that feral hogs are capable of “making” much more than “a mess”.

      But making stuff FROM them? Oh, yes – delicious 🙂

    5. They make tasty Chile Verde. A friend who shot one gave me a shoulder and I Mexican’d it up for Thanksgiving.

    6. Tasty ham – yes. Bacon – not so much as they typically don’t have anywhere near the same amount of fat on them that farm pigs do.

      Mmmm – reminds me I need to get up to the Central Coast one of these weekends, refill the freezer…

    7. The father of a friend of mine shot one a few years ago. It was sure tasty. His face and tusks made an excellent hat rack as well (the hog, not my friend’s dad). His mother also enjoyed having to look at it every time she walk out of the front door…

    8. Just down the road is a place that will buy live feral hogs you trap. They process and package the meat and sell it to gourmet restaurants.

      1. Where are you and how much do they pay ?

  7. unplanned collisions

    As opposed to the times when you intentionally total your car to hit that deer.

    1. (whaaaa, read the thread before posting? not I.)

  8. even strafed from helicopters.

    Cool! I am now in the market for an AH-64.
    If I ever get one, I’m packing for TX.

    1. I had a co-worker who went feral hog hunting from a helicopter in Texas. He said it was fucking great. I wish I could have gone with him.

      1. Slightly OT:
        I went traditional (on horseback, with a spear) boar hunting in Europe in the 1980s. Skewered one on the first try. Then he tried to come up the shaft at me. Scared hell out of me. The little crossbar stopped him, but it damn near took me out of the saddle.

    2. AH-1 not good enough? Probably far more affordable.

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  10. Hayes County (TX) has currently has a $5 bounty per feral hog.

    1. Its not hard to get somebody to take your feral hogs, at least in Texas. They’ll do it for free, because they sell the meat.

      Typical hog hunting involves dogs in flak jackets, to run down and corner the pack of hogs your after. The hunters then drag the hogs out and kill them with knives. Hogs run in groups, and if you shoot, the group scatters. By using dogs and knives, you can clean up the whole bunch.

      Personally, I don’t have what it takes to stab a struggling animal to death.

      1. I thought they used spears.

        Feral hogs are now in my state of PA. Some dumbass game farms had some get loose.

        Today is day 4 of rifle deer in PA. The two weeks of deer season are our Redneck Hannukah.

        Any bowhunters with a PA license are welcome to sit on my deck and take down a buck or doe from our neighborhood’s herd. They eat my windfall apples, which keeps the yellowjackets away, but they leave ticks.

  11. We have a huge test track in one of the orgs I used to handle. Major issue with teh wyld aminuls, of course. Cars doing 150mph+ tests don’t go well with…anything in their way. Turkeys and deer were the major issues.

    We have a special dispensation from the state to hunt on the site. We send a couple of our safety guys out to take everything they can, and provide special licenses to a lucky few.

    There have been some HUGE bucks taken from there. Meat + a decent trophy rack = happy employees. No aminuls in their grills makes for happy test drivers…

  12. Also, dude, let us not forget that conservation funding derived from hunters dwarfs the funding from all other sources combined. Vast tracks of protected habitat would have ceased to exist without the conservation efforts of hunters.

    1. Not just hunters. When you buy a firearm, ammunition, bow and arrow, or rod and reel you pay a 10-11% excise tax that goes into the Pittman-Robertson fund. That fund is one of the two major sources for U.S. wildlife funding, the other being hunting licenses, stamps, and other fees.
      http://www.fws.gov/southeast/f…..rtson.html

  13. Environmentalist tree huggers and conservationist husnter are still too far apart on the issues. Most tree huggers perceive every life as precious and needing to be preserved while conservationist hunters want effective game management and conservation of areas for wildlife.

    You won’t see too many tree huggers with a shoulder mount of a ten point buck…..

    1. Most tree huggers perceive every life as precious and needing to be preserved

      I guess they’ve never seen what deer can do to trees? When they were overpopulating the Chesapeake Bay islands, they were stripping off all the bark for food.

      1. Deer are like big rabbits: cute, tasty, and pretty much a lock to eat anything you grow for food or ornamentation. Of course, where I live in the People’s Republic of Maryland, they recently did a cull which, by popular vote, was conducted by DNR, as opposed to local hunters.

        Because it’s bad enough you have to kill a living creature without actually PROFITING by it…

        Mind you, the previous cull was done by a local club who subsequently donated all the meat to local homeless shelters in time for the holidays. I believe DNR just “disposed” of the carcasses.

    2. NJ banned bear hunting then realized that they didn’t like bears in their backyards and brought it back.

      PA has had a three-day bear season forever, and every year more and more bears are harvested but the bear population also keeps going up. Green weenies no nothing of conservation.

  14. I’ve been hunting for over twenty years. Once every few years I’ll have some asshat give me shit about it, but I usually use my finely-honed argumentative skills and tell them to eat a bowl of dicks.

    One of these idiots actually told me a better way to control the population is through introducing birth control through feeding stations. He could not process the fact that feeding stations cause deer to become dependent on the food provided and actually harm the herd.

    1. Intentions results.

    2. I hope your contact with these stupid people is not causing you any harm.

      Obamacare and Free Birth Control for Deer, and shit!!!!

      Real Men of Genius…

      1. PS My birth control for deer is spelled “Doe Tag”

        1. MURDERER!!

          1. Meat is murder.

            Tender, delicious murder.

            1. I have a t-shirt kind like that with a t-bone steak on it. “MEAT IS MURDER! Tasty, tasty murder.”

    3. Try that again: Intentions (greater than) results

    4. He could not process the fact that feeding stations cause deer to become dependent on the food provided and actually harm the herd.

      Large populations converge on feeding areas, transmitting ticks and diseases, not to mention heavy manure run-off.

      1. There’s also increased erosion since the vegetation around feeding areas is likely to be more heavily trampled, instead of being dispersed as the animals forage naturally.

        Feeding stations also make poaching easier, though there may be increased risk of being caught poaching.

    5. Then you woulda loved the debate last night on intelligence squared about whether or not people should “eat anything with a face”. At one ridiculous point, the vegans conceded that eating an animal that died of natural causes could be eaten, ethically.

      1. Did no one ask what the hell bilateral symmetry had to do with anything?

  15. I fuckin’ hate deer. Their meat sucks, they destroy property, and they carry nasty ass ticks. Any deer on my property is liable to be killed, and fuck hunting regulations. I wish they would go extinct.

    1. I’ve had a struggle this year with wild rabbits.

    2. “…nasty ass ticks…”

      Is there any other kind of ass tick?

      1. the Eastern Cultured Ass Tick is making a comeback

    3. Deer meat makes the best jerky I’ve ever had, but otherwise I find it lacking in any other application.

  16. If some of our teenage thrill seekers really want to go out and get a thrill, let them go up into the Northwest and tangle with the Grizzly Bear.

  17. I’ve taken 2 deer this season in Fairfax county, INSIDE the DC beltway in Northern Virginia in the Urban Archery season this year. This is more common than you think. It’s also nice hunting in one’s backyard.

    1. Oh and I ain’t doing it for sport, as a paleo eater I’m filling the freezer for next to nothing.

      1. Our ancient ancestors filled their freezer too. (permafrost)

      2. Our ancient ancestors filled their freezer too. (permafrost)

  18. That comment was so good, the Reason website decided there couldn’t be just one.

  19. Hunting is poised to make a big cultural comeback. Not just because deer are becoming pests, but also because the formerly vegetarian hipster set has embraced protein-rich meat-containing diets.

    Now that meat-eating is acceptable again, hunting is no longer considered animal cruelty. In fact, since these people want their chicken free-range and their beef grass-fed, hunting is actually a more ethical way to get one’s meat than buying it from factory farms. That deer lived a happy natural life in the open wilderness, not corraled into cages and forced to eat corn.

    1. ‘cept the last deer I kilt had corn in it’s gut. A neighbor/fellow hunter must be running a feeder…that cheatin basterd.

  20. The principles cited in this article are well-founded.

    A certain detail, tho: while bow-hunting is more primitively traditional and may require more skill and sport, animals killed by an arrow take 2 to 4 times longer to die than those killed by a hunting rifle.

    Of course, the masses could also get used to the fact that guns are good tools that can be used by properly-trained individuals even near their houses.

  21. Deer hunting must be stopped.

    1. Agree to disagree.

    2. ..so that we can have new sports, such as watching overpopulated deer starve and increase the car versus deer collisions.

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