Letter to the editor: Deer Park at VVH being mismanaged

Deer Park at VVH being mismanaged

One of the great things about my retirement has been the opportunity I've had to revisit Bennington, where I grew up. Bennington is a special mix of history and progress. It's a place people want to visit, even if they didn't go to school there or go sledding on the hospital hill. That's why, on a recent visit, I was dismayed to notice signs of neglect that hurt its appeal to newcomers and old-timers alike. The Deer Park at the Vermont Veterans Home is one of those signs.

I remember the Deer Park as a magical place where graceful deer emerged from deep shade to visit us. Reading the VVH's website today, they would have you believe it's still like that, but it isn't. For one thing, development along the backside of the chain link enclosure has eliminated the deep shade of its former woods. I saw a fawn lying on barren ground, rubbing its muzzle in the dirt, while the chain link fence separated the deer from the lush grass and idyllic park outside their reach. Deer love grass. But the pen is small and the deer have long since consumed what was in the pen.

Reportedly, the VVH plans to solve the grass problem by thinning the herd. In 2014, the Deer Park herd of four native white tailed deer was destroyed as a solution to complying with a state law prohibiting keeping native deer in captivity. A herd of 24 non-native fallow deer replaced them and will now be thinned out by selling half of them off to a farmer who, one surmises, raises deer as livestock and will most likely slaughter them for meat, as the white tailed deer were. In a story published by the Rutland Herald on Aug. 12, Jon Endres, VVH director of environmental services, proposed ways to raise revenue by selling deer antlers and, apparently, deer from the herd.

It's hard to understand how the state wildlife department and the VVH can be so out of touch with the original purpose and charm of the Deer Park. Insensitivity to the plight of the deer is a worse calling card for Bennington than the empty store fronts on Main Street.

It may be too late, or out of step with the 21st century to save the Deer Park. One this is certain; the Deer Park should not be kept as a poorly maintained feed lot for deer kept as livestock. Bennington should insist that the VVH and the state wildlife department fine a humane solution for the deer, while removing the blight from Bennington.

— Lillian Hurlburt Thompson St. Louis, Mo.


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