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Jekyll Island deer welcome now being official
Dick Yarbrough
Dick Yarbrough - photo by File photo

In the midst of all the turmoil over recent Supreme Court decisions on Obamacare and gay marriage as well as the furor over the Confederate battle flag, you may have missed the big news. The white-tailed deer has been selected the official mammal of the state of Georgia.

This was especially welcomed news for my friend Claude and his white-tailed colleagues on Jekyll Island. As you may recall, the Jekyll Island Authority had been making noises about shooting the deer on the island because they were procreating at an alarming rate as well as hassling people on the beach for acorns (the deer, not the Jekyll Island Authority). Claude had called me at the time seeking my help in letting people know they were under siege. He said there were more lawyers in Georgia than white-tailed deer, and nobody was talking about shooting lawyers. He made an excellent point.

The JIA has backed off the plan temporarily, saying it has decided to do a study first. I don’t think it needs a study to know that tourists come to Jekyll Island to see the deer and not members of the Jekyll Island Authority.

That’s an ego-buster, I’m sure, but sometimes, the truth hurts.

Last week, Claude called to thank me for my intervention on their behalf during those dark days and for the special status he and the other whitetails now enjoy. He said state officials were giving the credit to a group of first-graders in Muscogee County for the idea of making them the official state mammal, but the deer are convinced that it was my columns that made the difference.

Claude wanted me to know that in appreciation for my coming to their defense and for keeping them from getting their white tails shot off, the deer on Jekyll Island had gotten together and had voted to plant a clump of Dixie reindeer lichen (Cladina subtenuis) in my honor on the causeway.

I told Claude that while I was humbled by such a kind gesture, it might not be a good idea for us to be associating ourselves with “Dixie” at the moment. Claude wanted to know why not.

I told him the politically correct crowd was on a tear these days trying to get rid of anything having to do with Southern heritage, and if they found Dixie reindeer lichen on Jekyll Island, they would pour weed killer on it and it would be the lead story on “NBC Nightly News” with Lester Holt.

Claude said he had no idea who Lester Holt is and that lichen is not a weed. He said lichen is a composite organism that arises from algae and lives among filaments of a fungus in a mutually beneficial relationship, which is more than he can say for the Jekyll Island Authority and white-tailed deer.

I said those kinds of details don’t matter to the PC crowd. It’s the word “Dixie” that will get their shorts in a wad. Claude said he wondered how they felt about Dixie cups, Southern Comfort and Rebel Tall Fescue Grass Seed Blend.

I must admit that I hadn’t thought about that. I hope the PC crowd hasn’t, either.

Claude said that while the Jekyll Island Authority clearly has not treated him and his white-tailed associates with the respect they felt they were due, the deer remain Southern to the core. Have you ever seen white-tailed deer in downtown Newark or in Detroit City, he asked? I said I had not, but that was because I spent as little time in those two cities as possible. Claude wanted me to tell the politically correct crowd in no uncertain terms that the deer would plant clumps of Dixie reindeer lichen (Cladina subtenuis) whenever and wherever they pleased. I couldn’t be sure, but I thought I heard a couple of rebel yells in the background.

As we were hanging up, Claude said he had an idea he wanted to run by me. Now that the white-tailed deer is the official state mammal, did Georgia have an official state pest? I said I didn’t think so. I know the honeybee is the official state insect, but I wasn’t sure about pests and wondered why he was asking.

Claude said he and the other whitetails had gotten together and were thinking about nominating members of the Jekyll Island Authority for the honor.

Hmm. An interesting idea. I must remember to talk to the school kids in Muscogee County about that.

Contact Yarbrough at; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139; and online at or

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