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Published: Saturday, 12/28/2002

Be glad they're just deer

In this the season to count one's blessings, it's time for suburbanites who gripe about the deer that devour their landscaping to consider themselves lucky. Very lucky.

Otherwise they'd be living in northeast India, where wild elephant herds, facing the same pressures of lost habitat and overpopulation as deer in Ohio, also approach civilization to find food. But they do not do it gently.

These big guys rampage down Main Street, sniffing out grub, and, no kidding, booze. The region in and around Assam in northeast India is home to more than half of India's wild elephant population of 10,000. And herds of elephants wilding through rural villages are common. They trample rice fields and community granaries - a kind of one-stop shopping.

On such outings they've also stumbled into caches of rice beer and local liquor. They've developed a taste. Now, an elephant expert told Reuters, “they always look for it when they invade villages.” You get in their way at your peril.

Drunks can be obnoxious neighbors. It's not pretty when they turn violent. And so with elephants.

Recently, a herd of the gigantic marauders attacked granaries and country-made liquor stashes in Tinsukia, a city of nearly 74,000 in northeast Assam province. They got rip-roaring drunk, They went berserk. And when it was over, four children and two adults were dead.

In comparison, deer that gorge themselves on spring tulip greens are serene, though uninvited, visitors.

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