The Lively Politics of Deer in the Suburbs

Authors: John Connors*, Boston University, Anne Short Gianotti, Boston University
Topics: Animal Geographies, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: Animal Geography, Wildlife Management, More than Human Geography, Deer
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Grand Ballroom E, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

White-tailed deer flourish in suburban environments where they access ample food supplies from landscaped yards and move readily among forest patches. Previously extirpated from much of the landscape in the Northeastern United States, deer numbers have increased prodigiously in recent years, drawing humans and deer into contact in landscapes often viewed as ‘unnatural’ or strictly for human purposes. The relationships among humans and deers, however, are often facilitated by intermediaries, including forests, ticks, or garden plants. This research explores how the politics of deer management (and care) emerge, mobilize, and mutate in the context of these networks of human-deer relationships. Through in-depth interviews, archival research, and a statewide survey of town officials, we examine the process of formation and mobilization of deer management strategies and policies across Massachusetts. This research traces the expansion of deer management programs and the repeal of hunting regulations across the state. Through this attention to policy mobilities, we reveal the lively presence of non-humans in politics, but also remain attentive to how asymmetries of influence among human actors and different logics of control support the prevalence of certain management strategies, i.e. hunting, while foreclosing other options.

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