A conversation with the DEM
Catherine Sparks, assistant director of the Division of Forest Management of the Department of Environmental Management, spoke to The Block Island Times about the continuation of setting down corn meal as deer bait by the non-profit company White Buffalo.
BIT: Why was the baiting continued after the deer cull had been called off?
CS: Because the contractor requested an opportunity to continue to do some baiting, at his own expense, just to learn if there was a problem with the bait. They felt the deer weren’t taking the bait as expected. I asked Mr. [Anthony] DiNicola [president of White Buffalo] if they could provide me a list of sites where they would like to continue baiting. I sent a note to the property owners and just about all of them said yes.
BIT: Why wasn’t there an announcement that the baiting was being continued?
CS: Maybe that’s a fair question, maybe it’s not. The fact that certain property owners agreed to have something happening on their property I didn’t think needed to be announced.
BIT: It was confusing to some people because when they saw the baiting they weren’t sure what was happening with the cull.
CS: It’s regrettable, but it wasn’t a secret.
BIT: That’s true.
CS: [DeNicola] asked for a couple of weeks to see if there is something wrong with the bait — it seemed like a legitimate exercise. I don’t know why it would be a controversy.
BIT: Because there are some people here who are very opposed to the deer cull and this was more fuel for that fire.
CS: Perhaps that’s my failure to understand something that might be interpreted in a way that might not be expected.
BIT: Let me just ask you, will the deer cull happen next year?
CS: The community has indicated to me – I’m talking about the leadership, the Town Council, the First Warden [Kim Gaffett], they do want to do this and so the DEM and our director [Janet Coit] are committed to assisting the town. We’re having a meeting to discuss it [on March 13]. We’ll have a meeting to see how we can regroup. I’ve received every indication from DEM leadership and the community that this is something that’s still a priority and it will be my job to support and assist in that effort.
In a later email to The Block Island Times, Sparks wrote: “(T)he contractor requested permission to continue to use and observe certain baiting sites on 12 properties (9 owners) for 2 or 3 weeks. This request was made on Feb. 22.
“On Monday, March 3, I was informed that the contractor completed his assessment and would not be doing any further baiting.”
Interview conducted, condensed and edited by Lars Trodson.