2006-11-30 / Front Page

Council to revisit deer issue

By Dotti Farrington

The Town Councilors Monday continued their focus on arranging for deer hunting on town properties, even as early reports are that there has been relatively little interest in the first approved deer hunting season at Beavertail State Park.

Residents have been torn between the need to cull the herd for survival of the deer themselves, and need to use hunting to control property damage and spread of Lyme disease by the growing number of deer on the island.

Council talks this week reflected the goal of Council President David Long to "keep conversations going about the hunt and to move forward" although he was absent Monday night.

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said the town and the state Department of Environmental Management, which has responsibility for wildlife management, continue to work to open town land, mainly the 53-acre North Pond reservoir property, for deer hunting, and to reach out to encourage private property owners to allow hunting on their land.

Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski proposed that the town appoint its employees, mainly members of its Department of Public Works, as delegated hunters on town land. She said the town employees who hunt are known to be responsible workers and hunters, and their being delegated as town hunters "could show us how it can be done well and safely." Keiser said it would be important to emphasize the distinction and separation between their official town duties, and their designation as permitted hunters.

Councilman William Kelly reported his sightings of carcass remains while he drove through Northeastern states in recent days, and the need to manage such irresponsible actions of hunters. Szepatowski and Councilman Michael Schnack speculated the butchered remains were the result of illegal, non-permit hunters. Szepatowski said remains of two deer were left in recent days at Beavertail, one apparently the result of an accident and another possibly killed elsewhere and dumped at the park.

Szepatowski reported that no deer had been taken by permitted hunters at Beavertail to date. She said seven hunters, no more than two at a time, have qualified for permits to hunt Beavertail. She noted that up to 10 hunters are allowed under DEM rules. "There has not been as much interest as expected," she noted. Deer kills elsewhere on the island have not been reported yet.

Hunt protests

No further court action in Superior Court in Newport was reported during the past week on petitions by the Humane Society of Jamestown to curtail deer hunting here. Early this month the court denied a temporary restraining order the society asked for to block the first archery hunting season for deer that opened Nov. 13 at Beavertail State Park on the island's southern tip.

A formal written court order was being awaited. The humane society has also been working on a follow up effort to block the town from opening any municipal land to deer hunting in the future.

The Town Council authorized the Beavertail hunt, after years of wavering under heavily divided citizen opinion on deer hunts in general, and this year's focus on opening Beavertail to deer hunters. The councilors also assigned town staff to prepare data aimed at opening public land, primarily at the reservoir, for deer hunting, as well as some acreage along North Main Road between America Way and the town transfer station.

The push for culling the island's deer herd came from the DEM because of overpopulation of the species. The push was supported by residents whose properties are being damaged by deer; and by people affected by Lyme disease, the spread of which is blamed on the ticks deer carry.

The local humane society has teamed with the Defenders of Animals, based in Providence, to work on a voter initiative that would ban deer hunting on town-owned land. The opponents want to force the issue by getting signatures from 10 percent, or 459 of the town's 4,594 registered voters, to petition the council. Such a petition had not been filed by early this week.

Hunting rules

All hunting is done from one half hour before sunrise until one half hour after sunset.

Archery-only hunting at Beavertail park is underway as scheduled through Jan. 31. Hunting is allowed on weekdays only through Dec. 31, and then seven days a week during January. No firearms are allowed on the property at any time.

Each archer may take a maximum of three deer at Beavertail, and may apply for gun permits for a total of six additional deer elsewhere on the island. Most other deer hunting on the island is on private property, only with permission from the landowner.

Remaining hunting seasons are: with shotguns, Dec. 2 to 31, and with muzzleloaders, Dec 22 to 31.

The DEM said a cull of about 120 deer from Jamestown's herd of about 500 is needed to prevent the herd from being destructive to itself or other species.

Last year's cull was 75.

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