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Policing Nature: White-tailed deer management and the territorialization of the suburbs

Authors: John Connors*, Boston University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Animal Geographies, Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: Wildlife management, white-tailed deer, environmentality
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 1:45 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Virtual Track 3
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The growth of non-human populations in many sub/urban landscapes has spurred the creation and expansion of wildlife management programs into new areas. Although some communities have experimented with non-lethal approaches, these programs generally involve killing wildlife through hunting. In this paper, we consider how the management of white-tailed deer in Massachusetts and New York has contributed to an expansion of hunting regimes into the suburbs, producing environmental subjects that internalize killing wildlife as legitimate and necessary components of management of suburban landscapes. This process necessitates a transformation in the laws and norms in many municipalities where hunting was previously de facto or de jure forbidden. We consider three specific mechanisms for expanding lethal wildlife managements: 1) expanding permitted volunteer hunting, 2) culling of white-tailed deer by police officers, and 3) hiring contract sharpshooters to manage white-tailed deer populations. All three of these techniques have been applied across communities in Massachusetts and New York as parts of broader deer management plans. We explore the implications of these different techniques in defining participation in environmental management processes, reshaping environmental subjectivities, and territorializing the commons.

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