Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Nature's Way

Overpopulation can be a problem in nature. And while humans often cause the problem, only nature seems capable of solving it.

Take the Gypsy Moth caterpillar. Imported because they spin silk-like threads that man hoped to exploit, the caterpillars eventually exploded in population to the point where they were defoliating vast forests. However, in the late 1980s, a virus, a fungus and predatory insects combined to kill millions of caterpillars and halt the plague in our area.

Back in the early 1990s, raccoons were overpopulating – they were almost as common as squirrels. Suburban man had eliminated their enemies and created a comfortable habitat. Then a southern strain of rabies appeared and almost annihilated the raccoons.

Nature took charge. It might do the same with deer, also overpopulating thanks to us. However, it’s one thing to have a lot of dead insects hanging from trees or raccoon corpses off in the woods. It might be quite another to have hundreds of 150-pound deer carcasses dotting the landscape.

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