Friday, October 30, 2009

No TREAT: The Horror Tale that Ties New Jersey and Sanibel Island

This is going to be a more somber post than most on this blog.

Although it is Halloween week-end, this is not meant to frighten.

In part it's my need to vent.

But mostly my need to spell out why/how Sanibel Island is such a special place.

I live in Essex County, New Jersey where for the last several years there has been a bitter divide among those who want to kill the deer in a nearby reservation and those who don't believe that the kill is humane or necessary.

Like most tales, there are many elements too lengthy to go into here, but suffice it to say that the emotions run high on this issue.

What runs low is the outcome, depressingly low, as the "powers that be" decide year after year that the deer must die. Despite alternatives available, the denouement is death to the deer.

OK, I've tipped my hand: I don't want the deer to be killed, not in this way, and not for the reasons given. And probably not for any reason.Yet, I have yet to hear that the alternatives to the kill are seriously considered, except by those who oppose the kill. There is little debate, little deliberation and, quite honestly, too little opposition to the kill. Those against are sincere and dedicated, but they are outnumbered. The principle is not the thing here: might makes right in Essex County, New Jersey.

That's where Sanibel Island comes in, if only in my mind.

Sanibel had for years adopted a policy of live and let live with its alligator population. In fact, when discussion did arise about killing off alligators, there was such an outpouring of emotion that those for killing were not only out numbered, they were drowned out with the crescendo of nay sayers. The alligators, said the opposition to the killing, were here first. We, the humans, must live with their presence.

But as the population grew in number and size, alarm also grew. There was one person killed some years ago that fanned the fires of concern, and when the next person died as a result of, not the attack itself, but an infection from the bite; even those dedicated to the concept of live and let live had to back down.

And so the largest of the gators were killed. How humane the killings were, I don't know, but they were successful. There have not been alligator attacks in quite some time though it is never wise to stray too close to the water sources on the Island and never is it allowed for humans to feed the gators. So there is a tacit agreement between the upright species and the long-tailed species to stay out of each other's way, and for the most part it is working.

But the process in coming to the conclusion that the gators needed some serious wild life management consideration was one no body could fault. No one wanted to kill them, it was purely a life or death situation. Even now, Islanders are reluctant to report when a gator comes close to their home as they don't want to be responsible for it's being killed as a potential danger.

So the extreme juxtaposition to me is the decision here in Essex County, New Jersey where little, if anything, stands in the way of slaughtering benign deer and the protective society of Sanibel where the sanctity of all life, alligators included, is paramount in the culture.

Sanibel is not just a place. It is a culture onto its own. It's also a state of mind. There is no other place like Sanibel.

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