Abundant Vashon deer could be profitable if domesticated

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The pea sprouts are about 10 inches high now. Noticing this, I decided I’d better patrol the perimeter of the deer fence that was erected after one summer when we got home to find the deer had eaten every single pea plant down to the nub.

It’s worked perfectly, but one thing to be minded is the black plastic fencing that runs all around. The deer have been known to stick their heads under the fence and pull it right up. On their way in. To eat my peas.

I see the twine is tattered and worn in places, leaving a space to get a good and meaningful head hold, so I suppose it’s probably time to retie the bottom of the fence to two-by-fours that hold the fence down and keep the deer at bay.

I’ve already seen the rascals around. They did a dandy job on the tulips — snip, snip, snip. And this is with up to seven free-ranging but friendly neighborhood dogs. Maybe they have more interesting endeavors.

So, while tying, I got to thinking of an article I’d read recently about how farmers in Pennsylvania have actually started raising deer. It seems insane, for sure, because on Vashon, we have about as many deer as we do people. Why would anyone in their right mind raise them? For the bucks — cash, that is.

Those wacky farmers are turning away from traditional livestock and raising the deer for their meat, antlers and, yes, urine. It’s turned out to be a bigger moneymaker for them ($40 million a year and growing) than farming Christmas trees, goats and sheep.

One farmer who started with four deer two years ago already has 24. Which hardly surprises me. But he recently sold a fawn for $400, and that is a bit of a surprise. So far, about 1,300 Pennsylvania farmers have full-time jobs in the deer industry. More are raising them as a second job.

There’s big money in deer pee, they say. They collect the urine (the article didn’t say how) and sell it in two-ounce bottles for $9.95 apiece to hunters, who use it to attract deer. They make around $300 a season.

That’s good dough. It would probably buy a lot of peas at the farmers market. I’m just thinking ahead.

Margaret Heffelfinger

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