2005-12-15 / Front Page

Wildlife panel to offer council recommendations for deer management

By Sam Bari

Committee members offered an abundance of information pertinent to the deer management and Lyme disease control at the Dec. 8 Wildlife Committee meeting.

At the previous meeting in November, Wildlife Committee Chairman Christopher Savastano asked members to research all possible methods of controlling the deer population and Lyme disease. Members came armed with enough information for the committee to make sound recommendations to the Town Council for adjustments to the hunting program, as well as additional and alternative methods for managing the island’s deer herd and for controlling Lyme disease.

Committee member Richard J. Rembijas talked to state Department of Environmental Management Wildlife Management biologist Lori Gibson, who said that Conanicut Island currently supports 40 deer per square mile, while half that would be a workable number. Savastano noted that 20 deer per square mile agreed with his research.

“With so many other communities dealing with the same deer management, de-forestation, and Lyme disease problems as Jamestown, it is not necessary to reinvent the wheel. We can gather information from other studies and start creating our own solutions,” Savastano said.

Rembijas quoted three recommendations from Gibson that she said could help the hunting effort. “More open land whether it be private or town, bonus tags, and, we better do something with the firearms laws here in Jamestown.” Her last statement was in reference to town laws differing from state laws that allow shotguns and muzzleloaders with rifled bores, while Jamestown only allows smooth-bored firearms.

Committee member and Acting Police Chief Lieutenant William Donovan noted that smooth-bore muzzleloaders are difficult to find and are very expensive. He noted that he knew of only one company that manufactured the weapons. “Finding a smooth-bore muzzleloader is like looking for hen’s teeth. You can’t find them,” he said. His personal preference if he had the choice would be the rifled bore every time, because it is more accurate and therefore more humane, he contended. Rembijas concurred with Donovan’s claims.

Donovan added that if the laws were changed to allow rifled bores in both muzzleloaders and shotguns, hunters who do not have access to smooth-bore weapons would be attracted to the island. “I never understood the purpose of that law,” he said. “It’s like not hunting on Sunday. Where did that get started?” he asked rhetorically.

Rembijas interviewed 15 avid hunters and asked them what their priorities would be regarding change to the hunting laws and conditions on the island. He said that 53 percent said more land would be their first priority, 27 percent said more tags, and 20 percent wanted to do something about changing the firearms ordinances as their primary consideration.

The hunting issues were discussed at length. Some of the subjects covered included the merits and drawbacks of extending the season, unlimited tags, altering the limits of tags, allowing more access to public land, and methods for landowners to let hunters know that their property was available for hunting.

Committee member Wendy Harvey said that she researched the search engine “Google” on the Internet and found 6,700,000 Web sites available on deer management, with 165,000 sites covering birth control for whitetailed deer alone. She noted that although she did not research all of the sites, the consensus of opinion for using contraception to control the herd size of deer living in the wild was impractical, expensive, and a long-term solution with no guarantees.

Committee member Nancy Crawford offered extensive information on ways to reduce Lyme disease, her area of expertise. She cited University of Rhode Island Professor Thomas Mather’s recommendation for spraying yards, which can reduce the tick population carrying Lyme disease by as much as 60 to 80 percent. She also cited alternative landscaping as a good deterrent for keeping residential areas clear of deer. “If we stop feeding them, they won’t have reason to stay,” she said. “Plant flowers and shrubs that they won’t eat and put up deer fences to keep them away from vegetation that they perceive as food,” she continued.

Crawford also said that people should be encouraged to clear brush away from houses and to spray stone walls because both of these areas are where white-footed mice, the primary carriers of deer ticks, like to live. She mentioned that putting out Matrix Bait Boxes for mice is an effective method for reducing the tick population. Educating people about the symptoms of Lyme disease, how it spreads, and methods for eradicating the causes are problem, Crawford said. She suggested inserts in the newspaper, brochures, and similar print material be made available to the public.

Savastano concluded the meeting by encouraging the committee members to write specific guidelines using information from their research and bring the material to the next meeting. “At that meeting, we will decide which recommendations will be included in one comprehensive document to be presented to the Town Council at their second meeting in January,” he said.

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