Startled, I froze in the doorway, key still in hand. Someone was in the house.
“Hey, you look like me in the headlights,” called a voice from inside.
Burglar? Axe murderer? No, I should be so lucky. The home was dark save for the glow from the computer, but I could still see his antlers silhouetted against the screen.
I sighed. “How did you get in, Buck?”
He ignored the question, turned his gaze back to the laptop. “Not sure I like these bikini shots of Wayne Gretzky¹s daughter,” he said. “She kind of looks like Wayne. Creeps me out a little.”
Buck really was becoming a techno-deer. Used to be he would break into my house and watch TV, toggling between the National Geographic and Discovery channels — “the porn stations,” he called them — but now he prefers streaming video.
“I¹m citified,” he said, reading my mind.
“You¹re lucky I¹m citified, too,” I told him. “In most places, if a deer is smart enough to find its way into the garden, people aren¹t dumb enough to let it out.
“When I grew up, every house on Dallas Drive had one hanging from the carport rafters, strung up by the heels like Mussolini.”
“I¹m shaking,” Buck deadpanned, flicking his little tail.
“Don¹t push it,” I said. “I know it was you who chewed my hostas to the ground.”
He rolled his big brown eyes. “Give me a break. You didn¹t even know what a hosta was until she told you I ate them.”
He had me there, so I changed the subject. “Let¹s go down to the ocean, dangle your hooves in the water. Do octopi like venison?”
Buck shuddered. This was big news in Victoria: An octupus killing a seagull off the breakwater, a tourist posting it to YouTube. “Don¹t joke,” Buck said. “That gull was a good personal friend of mine.
“You people want to kill us all,” he insisted. It was my turn to roll my eyes.
Well, yes, it¹s true that a number of B.C. communities have been talking about “managing” Buck in the same manner that John Wilkes Booth “managed” Abraham Lincoln.
We have been blanketed by invasive species — grey squirrels, bullfrogs, Albertans — our parks and beaches fouled by Canada geese that, each identical to the next, multiply like Agent Smith in The Matrix.
You know where you don¹t find wildlife? In the wild.
The number of Buck¹s blacktailed country cousins has fallen from 200,000 in 1987, to 124,000 in 1994, to 50,000 today, according to government figures.
Guess we weren¹t supposed to cut down all the trees. This is not a local issue, of course. The WWF — the one with the panda, not the wrestlers — this week released the latest version of the Living Planet Index, which shows an average 30-per-cent drop in key animal populations around the globe between 1970 and 2008.
The report blames over-consumption, saying we are devouring renewable resources 1.5 times faster than the Earth can replenish them. The countries with the worst ecological footprint per person are Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, but Canada, at number eight, is right up there. Yeah, baby, Top 10.
“Are you happy?” glared Buck. “Anything else you would like to exterminate — a whooping crane, perhaps, a killer whale, maybe shoot a grizzly for its gall bladder?²
I glared back: “Just stay out of my hostas.”