Today, with a restored population of 25 million to 40 million whitetails, foresters complain that high concentrations of deer are inhibiting the growth of new trees all over the landscape. The animals gobble up seedlings and other vegetation on the forest floor and browse as high as they can reach standing on their hind legs. In the process, they are threatening rare plants and the birds and animals that count on the forest understory for survival. In some areas, deer have become de facto forest managers, determining what eastern woodlands are going to look like 50 or 100 years from now.

Hunters, long shunned, are being welcomed into some communities to trim local deer herds. Sometimes local governments hire sharpshooters to protect woods, parks and neighborhoods; predictably, these moves have caused controversy. This fall, a California-based group called In Defense of Animals filed two lawsuits, alleging that two such plans are illegal. …

With all deference to their emotional well-being, one also thinks of the anxiety and distress suffered by the 4,000 drivers in the United States who hit a deer every day. Not to mention the 250 people who die every year in these crashes or the 30,000 who are hospitalized because of them.