Council addresses deer hunting at Beavertail
Hunting season officially began on Oct. 1, but several councilors were surprised to learn that the grounds of Beavertail State Park are once again welcoming hunters.
Last year, councilors voted 4-0 in favor of allowing deer hunting at Beavertail. In October, Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Associate Director Larry Mouradjian reported that the deer hunting program at Beavertail State Park would continue this year.
The island deer population, which has increased four-fold since 1998, has been a persistent concern for town and state officials.
According to a report released in August, the DEM estimates that the island's habitat can sustain 220 deer. Currently, it estimates that approximately 400 deer populate the island.
Hunters reported 56 deer kills on the island last season, while automobile drivers accounted for 26 more. In order to begin reducing the island deer population, the DEM reported that future harvests need to increase to approximately 126 animals.
One of the efforts to reach that goal was the decision by councilors last year to agree to allow the DEM to open Beavertail to hunters provided they obtain a special registration with the Jamestown Police Department.
Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski took an aggressive stance against the DEM decision to renew Beavertail's designation as a recognized hunting ground.
"I just can't see shutting down the park for five deer," Szepatowski said, referring to the total number of deer reported harvested last season.
Szepatowski also objected to the unilateral approach taken by theDEM in their decision-making process. "I thought they were going to come back to us" before hunting at Beavertail was reapproved, Szepatowski said.
Councilman Michael Schnack, however, took issue with Szepatowski's position, noting that Beavertail does not close down during hunt times, and a concern for human health associated with the exponential increase in the deer tick population reported recently outweighed concern for deer.
"I think human health is a lot more important than saving Bambi," Schnack said.
Councilman William Kelly also expressed concern for the welfare of the island's biped population. The deer hunt at Beavertail "is something we should be open to," Kelly said, noting that the number of car accidents involving deer present a danger to island motorists.
Echoing Schnack and Kelly, Council Vice President Julio Di- Giando said that he felt it was too late in the season for council action and added that he was interested to see what the effect of the town's effort to encourage more private land owners to open their property to hunters would have at the end of the season.
Council President David Long had the final word, saying that he was not ready to issue a cease and desist order.
"It's already started," Long said, adding that the issue was a matter for the next council.