The late James Dickey, author of the novel "Deliverance" and a masterful American writer, once penned a piece of verse called "Deer Among Cattle." The images in the poem were stark, the insights striking. The final line, where the deer leaps the fence as the cattle watch it flee "like one of their own, who would rise," is unforgettable.

The problem is, the poem showcases the picturesque but doesn't address the problem: the dicey and uneasy conflict of wildlife colliding with the civilized world.

Now, as trophy homes and cabins creep deeper into the wilds and more foraging animals find their way down to the shrubs and flowers of homeowners, old fears about loss of habitat and endangered species surface. In his Thursday column, Deseret News outdoors writer Ray Grass spoke of such things — pointing out that Utah's elk, antelope, moose, bighorn sheep, buffalo and Rocky Mountain goats all have spent time teetering on the edge of annihilation. In 1898, there were fewer than 700 antelope in Utah when Utah banned their harvest. Only a handful of bighorn sheep were left in the 1950s because of overhunting and uranium mining. At the same time, the Department of Wildlife Resources has nurtured herds of moose and transplanted buffalo until their ranks have become strong and viable.

In short, the DWR should be lauded for its wildlife relocation program, an effort that has kept wild animals a stunning part of the mystique of the state.

True, the DWR has not had the best of years in 2005. Allegations about "buckaroo" agents playing fast and loose with firearms and renegade field marshals crossing the line have haunted the agency. But by simply looking at some of the frayed edges, people miss the strength of the fabric itself. The DWR has rented helicopters, hired additional agents and spent thousands to make sure Utah doesn't become a barren waste and to keep the deer and the antelope playing freely here. What's more, almost all of the money has come through grants, license sales and private funding.

As 2005 draws to a close, the DWR has promised to work harder and do better in its contact with the public. The public, by the same token, should pledge to work and support the DWR wherever possible to make sure that Utah's most valuable assets — its flora and fauna — not only survive, but prosper.