Deer Task Force split over proposed ordinance change
In a split vote of 3-2, and with two members absent from the Oct. 16 meeting, the Deer Task Force could not send a recommendation to the Town Council opposing a hunting ordinance change.
The change, set for a council public hearing in November, would clarify wording to include “no overlapping of seasons for firearm and bow hunting.” The council sets hunting dates, so this wording change would clarify which weapons could and could not be used during the town-set seasons.
Task force member Chris Blane, a hunter and the one who brought the topic to the council table as a member of the public, explained why it would be beneficial to separate the two seasons. Most notably, he said that shotgun hunting takes more deer than bow hunting.
“This [shotgun season] is not deer hunting, this is ‘deer reduction,’” he explained. Task Force Member Paul Deane, also a hunter, agreed, noting that bow hunters did not take many deer, but simultaneously limited the property a shotgun hunter could utilize. Blane also added that safety concerns add to the reason why the two should be separated.
However, other members of the task force disagreed. Chair Mary Sue Record explained that she talked with the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and does not believe there is a safety concern. Sara McGinnes said that this would also ignore properties that can only be hunted with a bow – reducing the number of deer that could be taken. Becky Ballard agreed.
Expanding hunting and outreach
The meeting was an educational experience for two community members running for Town Council. First Warden candidate Howell Conant and council candidate Bill McKernan attended the meeting, both explaining they’d like to learn more about the deer issue. McKernan suggested he’s in favor of eliminating the herd, and Conant said he would defer to the opinion of the task force and the overall public.
Discussed was an upcoming “organized hunt” scheduled at Rodman’s Hollow and managed by the DEM, scheduled for a total of 16 days in January and February.
“This is really important,” said Record. “This is the first time there’s been hunting there, and we want to make sure that it’s successful.
Blane had been asked to present a list of suggestions for this meeting, and among them he suggested that boundaries of the property be marked, abutters be notified and that there be a hunter orientation beforehand.
Members voted to recommend to the Town Council establishing a deer check station manned by local hunters and police for the purpose of checking all deer taken on Block Island. The DEM used to sponsor a B.I. station, but now instead have gone to an “honor system” asking hunters to send in postcards about the deer taken. However, many postcards are never sent in. Blane said that it is essential that the Task Force know accurate information and a count on deer hunted.
The Task Force also agreed to request funds from the Block Island Resident’s Association to help cover Transfer Station costs (hunters can dispose of entrails for free). Conant also suggested that the group approach the Town Council for funding.
Also discussed was expanding the Task Force’s use of the town website, including adding educational facts and hunting information.
Record said that members of the Block Island Resident’s Association had responded to the hunting interest forms passed out by the group, and she agreed to respond to questions and suggestions.
Record also said she has spoken with the state Department of Agriculture about its wildlife services and how it could assist with eliminating the deer herd, and the members hope to expand contact with the DEM.