Hunters need property access to cull island deer
“Deer do not respond well to pressure,” Wildlife Committee member and Acting Police Chief Lieutenant William Donovan said at the Wildlife Committee meeting on Nov. 10. “When they feel the pressure of hunters in one area, they just move until they are not bothered any more,” he noted.
“And that’s where the problem lies,” Wildlife Committee Chairman Christopher Savastano pointed out. “Deer do not feel pressure in areas where hunters don’t have access. And hunters don’t have access to residential neighborhoods that cannot be hunted because of the proximity of houses, or properties where landowners will not give permission to hunt. Without access, the problem is not going to go away, because those areas are where the deer will ultimately go,” he added.
“But even with access to properties offering adequate distances between dwellings, that doesn’t stop the deer from moving to nearby densely populated neighborhoods where they can’t be hunted,” said hunting, fishing, and wildlife committee member Richard J. Rembijas. “Like in the north end of the island where the problem is the worst,” he added.
The entire agenda of the committee meeting covered deer related concerns.
After reviewing passionate letters to the Town Council about the urgency of the deer population problem from Jamestown resident Anne Lane, who lives on East Shore Road, the committee reviewed all aspects of the hunting problem.
In her letter of Aug. 1, Lane submitted a map illustrating the number of deer and how often they were sighted in each area of her neighborhood. The letter also addressed the number of deer ticks found on her grandchildren whenever they played in her front yard.
Lane claims to have found at least five deer ticks on each child and as many as 10 on their feet after playing within 3 feet of her house. She also named several residents who have confirmed cases of Lyme disease, a debilitating illness carried by the deer ticks.
The committee discussed increasing the number of deer tags and eliminating cost, as well as the possibility of offering landowners incentives to allow deer hunting on their property. Allowing an unlimited number of deer to be taken was mentioned, and the possibility of extending the season was also suggested.
Committee member Wendy Harvey, whose husband is an avid
hunter, pointed out the futility of expecting bow hunters to cull the 05 herd enough to be effective, even if landowners whose property is in compliance with state and local ordinances allowed access.
“Hunters sit in tree stands for hours waiting for a deer to come within range,” Harvey said. “Deer have very sensitive hearing and an acute sense of smell. The slightest noise or unnatural movement sends them bolting into the brush. To silently move to get into position to fire a shot is extremely difficult,” she continued. “And if the area has been recently hunted, the chances of deer passing through are slim,” she noted.
“That’s another point that we should address,” Savastano said. “How much does the herd have to be reduced in order to be effective on both issues, reduction of Lyme disease and destruction of property?” he asked rhetorically.
Rembijas offered to talk to state wildlife management biologists Lori and Mark Gibson to get the exact numbers, pointing out that he believed there was a study indicating how many deer per acre the environment could support without having an adverse impact on the ecosystem.
The committee also discussed the Holterra Wildlife Management report prepared for the Humane Society of Jamestown. The Holterra report, written by Frank D. Verret, indicates that the ratio of male, 14 percent, to female, 86 percent, was disproportionate to acceptable standards and could prove to cause a marked increase in the size of the deer population if not addressed.
The alternatives to harvesting deer given in the report are longterm solutions. Everything studied and reviewed by the committee did not offer short-term relief.
Savastano suggested that the committee members research the steps taken by other urban and rural communities, learn what they did to resolve their deer population problems, and bring their findings to the committee’s next meeting.