A friend called recently to ask about deer repellents. Are there chemicals you canapply to stop deer from browsing plants? Some of his clients had poor results.”Do those things really work?” he asked.Satisfactory answers to the problem of urban deer eating landscape plantings continueto elude wildlife managers. Can science solve this dilemma?Maybe a magic answer is out there. In the meantime, there is a way to stop deer fromeating our plants. It means removing deer, mostly by having licensed wildlife expertsshoot them after dark with spotlights and precision rifles.You mean deer hunting along suburban streets?Yep.Georgians have proved that shooting works. We got rid of deer from most of the statewith guns. Then, after a spell of deerlessness, we restocked them, beginning in the 1950s.Now some neighborhoods are voting to use guns to remove unwanted deer.Finding consensus is the key. It’s harder than removing the deer. Often theconsensus-building process goes like this.First, some folks get upset with deer damage to their yards and gardens. The desire todo something grows. Eventually the neighborhood calls in wildlife management professionalswho explain the facts.I see two extremes: live with a level of deer damage others see as unacceptable, orremove deer to bring the population down to an acceptable level. And that means killingthem. Some folks find that unacceptable.Next comes a time of arguing and disagreement. This goes on for a year or two, or more.It becomes clear that the problem lies not in the lack of technology, but in a clash ofattitudes and values. Some people are already adjusted to the idea of killing. Others havevalues that prohibit it.Sociology research helps us understand such clashes. Steve Kellert of Yale Universityhas done landmark research on American attitudes toward wildlife. He describes 10attitudes. Here are two:Moralistic — primary concern for the right and wrong treatment of animals. Humanistic– primary interest and strong affection for individual animals, mainly pets.If you value one of these attitudes, you will almost certainly score high in the other.Here are two more:Utilitarian — primary concern for the practical and material value of animals.Dominionistic — primary interest in the mastery and control of animals.We don’t usually get our values by thinking. We get them from our environment. Acollege-educated woman, age 25, who grew up in the suburbs is likely to have a differentattitude toward deer than a 50-year old man raised on a farm.Our age, sex, profession, education and other variables greatly affect our attitudesand values. Self-interest plays a major role, and it often results in change.Muddling through public and private meetings on the way to consensus involvesstakeholders like biologists, animal rights folks, gardeners, politicians and others.If you’re caught up in such a controversy, a good strategy is to keep your sense ofhumor, relax and enjoy the show. After three to five years of acrimonious debate,consensus emerges.Some folks decide to have licensed experts come in to shoot deer. Once they do, a swiftreduction in deer numbers, and relief for gardeners, is on the way.Not everybody is happy, of course.The alternative is to live with the deer and let them decide which plants will grow.And that’s OK, too. Still, not everybody will be happy.The main point is that the decisions are political. The technological solutions, suchas they are, are nothing new.