I arrive at McCrea Point Park Boat Launch on the Chadakoin River at dawn. As I unpack my video gear, a man gets out of his car, clearly excited to get on the river.
“You’ll need that camera when I get back… for all the big ones I’m about to catch!”
He practically skips over to his small fishing boat. Maybe it’s the crispness in the air and mist gliding over the water that has him so excited. Maybe it’s too much coffee. Either way, we’re both starting our Saturday right.
With ducks splashing around and birds chirping at full force, I snag some footage and head on my way – down stream.
I quickly forget that I’m in downtown Jamestown. The brush is just thick enough to muffle sounds of traffic passing overhead on the many bridges along this western part of the river. I hike past a demolition site and into a small meadow.
And there she is: a doe peeking at me over the grass. Stopping immediately, I slowly… set… down… my… tripod. She doesn’t seem to mind.
Growing up in rural Western New York, it was common to spot white-tailed deer. We’d creep up onto the field near my parents’ house in the evenings and usually see them grazing on a distant hill. If we were careful, we could watch them for a few minutes before they’d notice us and immediately run off into the woods to hide.
This urban deer is completely different.
I’m already way closer to her than I’m used to and I can’t believe she’s just casually standing there. I notice another deer – a small buck by her side and two fawn in the grass below. I decide to stand and wait for them to continue on their way – no luck. They just keep grazing as they were.
Actually the doe – Momma, as I affectionately call her – seems as curious of me as I am of her. She looks at me and sticks her nose in the air, the same way my cat does when he thinks he’s about to be fed, and walks in my direction.
I’m not really sure what to do.
A couple jog over the bridge above me, oblivious of the fauna below.
It turns out that Momma isn’t unique at all. White-tailed deer can become very tame to humans when they are in close contact. This isn’t a problem as long as it is kept in check.
If you see deer gathered near your home, the trick is to limit your exposure to them. Or, rather, limit their exposure to you. It’s important that white-tailed deer graze as naturally as possible. If they are fed by humans, they will tend to concentrate near feeding locations. This unnatural concentration of tame deer can lead to nasty disease transmission especially Chronic Wasting disease. Which trust me, is no good. It basically eats the animal from the inside out.
This is all not to mention that when deer become too concentrated, they make a much easier target for our cars and can devastate our gardens and crops.
So yeah, don’t feed the deer. Even salt licks are enough to attract unnatural deer behavior.
I continue down the river past the Jamestown Power Plant and to the historic train terminal that sits next to the river. A man sits on a lawn chair next to a small boombox that softly plays classic rock. He sips his coffee and casts a line into the river.