A student of mine, and a darn good wide receiver to boot, had this letter published in his hometown paper:Who owns the deer?
Ross has proposed a new ordinance that would ban people from feeding deer on their own property (“Hungry deer find allies in some residents,” Sept. 25).
Many people are concerned that feeding deer would only attract more to the already heavily deer-populated township, which would affect public safety in a variety of ways. Others view this proposal as an infringement by the government on their property rights, claiming that if the deer are on their land then they should be allowed to feed them and enjoy the resources as they see fit. They believe the government is overstepping its boundaries by trying to enforce this law.
The issue raises the topic of self-ownership, and the questions: “Who, if anyone, owns these deer?” and “Does that ownership or lack thereof change if the deer are located on someone’s specific property?”
Property rights are defined as the exclusive authority to determine how a resource is used, whether owned by governments or individuals. A precedent needs to be set stating what exactly is owned by owning a piece of land — and deciding if by owning the land you also own everything that lives on it.
Setting a precedent that the government can own resources that lie on a property — that is, everything on the property not protected under property rights — would change a lot of assumptions. For instance, if the government owns the deer, it could then claim to own the maple-producing trees, or the woods that make paper. This would essentially be taking money from the taxpayers.
The government does not have a valid claim to the deer. They should be left in the hands of the individuals who own the land. The government should not step in and try to regulate the feeding of them. No proof has been submitted that feeding is attracting more deer into the area. It is simply too much government interference with people’s private lives without any substantial evidence.