Gail Collins: On deer ticks, Donald Trump, feral hogs and other invasive species
I cannot tell you what a relief it was when I discovered that the multibillion-dollar trading loss at JPMorgan was because of deer.
Yes, I know. You thought it was the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, right? Me, too.
Then I read the recent New York Times article by Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Nelson Schwartz that reported that Ina Drew, the executive who was in charge of JPMorgan's chief investment office, had been laid low by Lyme disease during the period preceding the debacle.
Some of you who don't live in the Northeast may not be familiar with Lyme disease, but it can really knock you out. And it's not always easy to diagnose, so it can hang around until the symptoms get truly debilitating. Believe me, if you have advanced Lyme disease, you are not going to be able to keep a handle on a passel of frisky traders.
Lyme disease is transmitted by the bites of ticks, which are carried around by deer. A typical victim might be a New Jersey resident who enjoys gardening. Ina Drew lives in New Jersey and is an avid gardener — a hobby that she'll unfortunately be able to pursue full-time this season.
The deer. I think we really do have our villain.
There has been way too much combination of cataclysmic and incomprehensible in our worry list lately. (See: euro.) So it's a nice change of pace to be able to put the blame for bad developments on simple-minded critters that have no idea that there's anything in the world outside their own need to feed and reproduce. Like deer. Or ticks. Or Donald Trump.
We have now reached the point where the exurban deer population is so large and so omnipresent that soon they're going to start setting up trailer camps. Paul Curtis, the extension wildlife specialist at Cornell University, says that to get the tick population down to a reasonable level, "you need deer densities of six to eight per square mile or less. In the urban-rural fringes of many large metropolitan areas, it's not unusual to have densities of 100-200 per square mile."
Really, whenever you get to the point where the main source of deer fatalities is traffic collisions, you have way too many deer. Curtis says Cornell has had great success with a program to sterilize the does, but it costs about $1,000 per animal. I am going to go out on a limb and guess that if Congress can't bring itself to spring for an adequate number of bank regulators, it's not going to fork over that kind of money for deer birth control.
Also, Curtis says it would help if hunters had to bag two females before they're allowed to shoot a buck. The problem with this is that hunters do not like being told what to do, and nobody wants to offend them. These days the whole gun thing is so volatile that even the most ardent weapons-control advocates try to keep on the right side of the hunters, just so you know they're regular guys. (See: Sen. Chuck Schumer holding dead pheasant.)
I always thought the reason we had so much trouble controlling the deer population was because deer have big eyes and adorable tails. But it turns out that North Carolina is having a terrible problem with feral hogs, and that can't be because they're cute.
The key here is the environment — global warming, suburban sprawl, wolf depopulation, etc. But there's also something about America that encourages excess by every species. A Starbucks outlet is great — how can 12,000 not be better? We are the land of the 26-week baseball season and 1,230 professional basketball games per year. Where it is not possible to have one television show about bidding on abandoned storage lockers, extreme fishing, misbehaving housewives or hog-hunting without having two, three, four or seven. (How is it possible to have both an overpopulation of feral hogs and an excess of reality TV shows about feral hog-hunters?)
Politically, we've always had eccentric/loony billionaires that occasionally get involved in big campaigns, but this year we've spawned herds of them, marching across the landscape, lowing about socialism and leaving behind vast dumps of TV ads and old Newt Gingrich buttons. Dozens and dozens of little congressional candidates are attached to their hides, waiting to jump off and start new Tea Party epidemics in the azaleas.
And Donald Trump! Trump has been around for years and years and years, and his TV show, "Celebrity Apprentice," served a useful function as a haven for aging American Idols and retired professional wrestlers. For a long time, nobody noticed that he had left his normal habitat and was wandering around in people's backyards, racing across the highway in the middle of the night and eating all the day lilies.
Next thing you know, if you're Mitt Romney, you wake up one morning to headlines like: "Acquaintance of Donald Trump Wins Republican Presidential Nomination." You've been bit.