Trees, deer and decision-making

With all the political fallout in the news these days, maybe it's time for a little less noteworthy news.

Here in Ashland, trees have almost mystical status, unless of course they fall on your car and/or house, (as happened down the street), and then they take on a status a little less remarkable, more like firewood. Trees here have a life of their own. They become majestic and grand well beyond their ages.

It is amazing how many century-old trees we have that aren't in the photos of 50 years ago. They have almost become a connection to a past we never had and a reason to avoid any future change beyond where we are now. I have been told many times how “these trees have been here for over 100 years and are so precious.” When I point out they were planted in the late '70s and are non-native, it’s as if I’m a merchant of fake news.

“That cannot be true,” is the reply. Must be a combination of creative Photoshopping and youthful delusion. All I know is, many of these trees are younger than I am and I have never been called majestic. I may have been called precious once (about six decades ago). So, could be it is not the age of the trees but the non-native trait that makes them special and easy to relate to, hard to say.

Also, in Ashland, we love our deer (or maybe just like them). To some, they have the status of pets, maybe even more status as they don’t need leashes, collars, licenses or vaccinations. No one picks up after them and they are free to roam and graze in Lithia Park.

They can cross Siskiyou Boulevard without using the flashing signals or even crosswalks, and we still stop. They are photographed by visitors and have even been recognized in the Fourth of July parade. And, like trees, they are to many a cherished part of the Ashland experience and, also like trees, they were never as numerous as they are now.

I am glad to have grown up in Ashland when you didn’t need an 8-foot fence around your garden or have to carry a club when walking your dog. But then, it was a different time. I don't think any self-respecting deer would have wanted to be known as a “city” deer back then.

Now the dilemma comes when the two mix. What to do when the two tangle, as happened last March when a deer became stuck in a tree. Which one is most sacred? Do you cut down the tree, euthanize the deer or let the two of them just fight it out? Which one will win?

Was the deer trying to get to another garden the tree was defending, or just heading up to the hills? Maybe it wasn't warned properly about the dangers of trying to jump through trees. Had it just eaten a few too many roses to jump high enough to clear the limbs of the tree?

Was the tree in the appropriate place? Had it been planted or pruned inappropriately? Were the soils around the tree not of sufficient quality for deer takeoffs and landings? An attractive nuisance, maybe?

Looks like it may be time to bring in a consultant and form a commission to help make the decision for us. Possibly a new ordinance or two for “Urban Tree Plantings in Deer Habitat” or “Appropriate Deer Behavior in Tree Habitat. I know several in town who would like to see a “Deer Exclusion Zone” created and enforced.

Luckily for both the deer and the tree (and the citizens of Ashland), the Ashland Police Department was called in. And, with a little head-scratching and a hydraulic jack, the tree limbs were persuaded apart (I didn’t hear if a permit was required), and the deer squirmed free and ran off. Probably both deer and tree were a little sore from the experience but none the worse for wear and no citations were issued.

Who ever said we cannot make decisions in Ashland?

— Michael Morris is a member of the Ashland City Council.


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