Deer Task Force prepares for special hunts
A reconstituted Deer Task Force resolved on Monday to put a plan before the Town Council by the end of 2013 that would chart the way toward greatly reducing or eradicating the island’s deer herd.
Up to now, the task force has worked on counting the herd, increasing hunting opportunities on island properties, both private and public, as well as helping property owners match up with hunters.
New members have been added to fill slots vacated by resigning ones. Both former Chair Mary Sue Record and hunter Chris Blane have left the task force and were replaced by Bill McKernan and Lisa Sprague. Returning members are Paul Deane, Becky Ballard, Sarah McGinnes, George Mellor and Ruth Perfido. Perfido, a part-time island resident and New York attorney, will fill the chairman slot and Becky Ballard will serve as vice chair.
A letter from the Democratic Town Committee referred task force members to a 2009 report about several deer reduction/eradication plans considered by past groups concerned with the proliferation of Lyme Disease, which is carried by the ticks that live on the deer. Perfido appointed a subcommittee to study them and come up with a recommendation for the task force. Perfido asked Deane to serve on it, and Mellor volunteered. They will begin before the next meeting, and a third member will be chosen then, preferably one of the new members, said Perfido.
Perfido put together a list of agencies and people the task force needed to consult with, ranging from the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) to the Block Island Health Services and Yale University, and asked members to volunteer to liaison as needed with them.
Moving on to this year’s hunts, Deane reported on the Rodman’s Hollow lottery. There will be a maximum of six hunters per day, and the state chose six hunters for each week of the four week hunt. Letters already have been sent to them. First Warden Kim Gaffett, who attended the meeting, reported that she was told that DEM enforcement officers will be on the property, but she is not sure that will span the entire time of the hunt. She is working out accommodations and will have GIS consultant Martha Roldan produce a better map of the area with landmarks. Signs will be posted at all the access points.
Deane also reported on the planned hunt on U.S. Fish & Wildlife properties near the North Light and Beane Point, to be held between January 21 and February 28. There are 20 slots for hunters, and among those chosen by lottery were local hunters Chris Blane and Joe Dematteo. Boundaries are being marked.
Neither of the new hunts will include weekend days.
New Lyme data
Data received from the Block Island Medical Center revealed that there were 46 cases of Lyme Disease diagnosed by the medical center from January 1, 2012 to Jan 1, 2013: 23 among year-round residents, 10 among summer residents, seven among summer workers and six for visitors. There were no cases of babesiosis or erlichiosis. However, these numbers do not reflect those diagnosed by other medical research teams.
A discussion on the pros and cons of creating an island game warden ended with Ballard offering to gather information from officials in three other towns who have game wardens.
Archer John Fournier attended the meeting with two Connecticut archers, Joe Bosco and Bob Bosco, to offer public comment. The task force has a policy, which it voted to continue in 2013, that public comment can be made only before and after the meetings, and each person can speak for a maximum of five minutes.
In their allotted time, the archers spoke against reinstating check stations on Block Island, an issue the task force had discussed in previous meetings. Fournier said he supports the task force, as does his group of archers, which he said numbers 19 members and will be increasing to 23 next month.
Bob Bosco agreed with Fournier, and told the task force that 10 archers spent election week on Block Island and took 33 deer. He recently hunted again, taking three deer. A check station would slow them down he said, and they do report using the card system currently in place.
Also returning briefly to offer public comment, Chris Blane informed the task force he would be asking the Town Council to pass a local law to supplement state law requiring hunters to wear orange vests.