I think I must face the possible grim truth: All or most of the deer I've been enjoying for the past few years - enjoying despite their poop dotting the discs of my snow - may have been killed.
It has been two or three weeks since I've seen any deer in my back yard, and probably almost two weeks since I've even seen a new deer track. Or a poop.
The timing bodes ill for my deer. The City of Helena is several years into a program to cull the town's ever-growing deer population. Studies have indicated that the population of the town's roughly 600 deer could grow exponentially unless that growth is somehow limited. (Check out Thomas Robert Malthus - 1766-1834 - who noted that while a population grows by a geometrical ratio, the means of subsistence grows only by an arithmetical ratio. Trouble has to follow.)
It turns out that this time of winter is when police officers are called upon to trap their quota of urban deer, drive a bolt into their heads, and transport the corpses to butchers who voluntarily prepare the meat for delivery to the city's hungry.
I agree with the city's policy. Uncontrolled growth of urban deer could only lead to trouble for everybody involved, including the deer.
But as I look out of my kitchen window into my empty back yard each day, I miss more and more the 10-20 mule deer I've come to know.