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Case Number 25796: Small Claims Court

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The Private Life of Deer

PBS // 2013 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // June 8th, 2013

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All Rise...

Judge Clark Douglas was hoping for more info on Bambi's secret drug addiction.

The Charge

How well do we know our neighbors from the natural world?

The Case

I grew up in a fairly rural part of Georgia, so I was surrounded by white-tailed deer as a kid. It was quite common to see them just hanging out in the yard, wandering around and making themselves at home. Of course, if you ever got too close, they would bolt away. However, on one occasion I encountered a particularly fearless deer. I approached him slowly, certain that he was preparing to dash off at any moment. For some reason, he just stood there. I walked right up to him and looked at him for a long time. After a few moments of silence, he turned and sauntered back into the woods surrounding our house. I felt we had shared a moment of connection. However, the new PBS documentary The Private Life of Deer informs me that deer are essentially blind and can only detect basic movement with their eyes. Our moment of connection was undoubtedly just his attempt to determine what that fuzzy object slowly heading towards him could be.

That's the sort of fun fact The Private Life of Deer offers up on a regular basis, doing its best to undo our assumptions about these increasingly omnipresent creatures. For instance, when one sees a deer sitting down in the grass, one might assume the deer is simply taking it easy for a while. On the contrary: sitting is a crucial part of a deer's digestion process. The special also examines the alarmingly large number of traffic accidents involving deer (indeed, I totaled my first car at the young age of 17 when a deer bolted across the road in the wee hours of the morning), but suggest that deer do seem to learn to cross a road more cautiously as they grow older. Still, with roughly one million deer-related traffic accidents happening each year (no, really!), it's a serious problem without an easy answer.

One of the most remarkable sections of the documentary examines how quickly the deer population has grown in recent years. With approximately 30 million deer currently roaming North America, it's no surprise that deer have begun making themselves at home in heavily populated areas. While deer are peaceful creatures, this has nonetheless created a number of problems that will eventually require a solution. Still, The Private Life of Deer isn't particularly interested in the problems of the future; just the facts of the present. It's a typically informative and engaging special that should prove rewarding for viewers of all ages.

As is typically the case with these releases, The Private Life of Deer has received a strong standard-def transfer that offers source footage of varying quality. The stuff shot by professional documentarians looks great. The stuff shot on cheap cameras by ordinary citizens? Not so much. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track gets the job done effectively. No supplements are included.

Keep up the good work, PBS.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: PBS
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Science and Nature
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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