DTF discusses role of local hunter in deer reduction
Chair Ruth Perfido opened the May 27 meeting of the Deer Task Force (DTF) by reviewing the highlights of a work session with the Town Council on May 7. The DTF is considering a possible hybrid arrangement to reduce the deer population — a combination of local hunters and professionals.
“I thought that both groups would be compensated,” Perfido said, addressing an issue that has popped up since it was announced last year that a non-profit company based in Connecticut, White Buffalo LLC, had been hired to reduce the herd. When the cull that was scheduled for this year was postponed, the conversation about using local hunters was renewed, along with whether some of the money raised to address the cull could be paid to the non-profressionals.
One of the ways in which a hunter can be compensated, Perfido said, is the selling of non-eligible deer parts after it has been killed.
Having spoken with Town Solicitor Kathy Merolla, Perfido said, “It appears that there may be no restriction on the sale of non-edible parts of deer that hunters take.” That is, during the designated hunting season, hunters would be paid for such portions of the deer as antlers, hides, skins and tails.
Perfido agreed that compensating local hunters to reduce the deer herd, that is, to provide incentives for them to do so, was an idea that ought to be considered. Her sense was that “the community wanted to have the local hunters be compensated.” It was generally accepted that the price tag on taking a deer would earn a hunter approximately $150.
Speaking from the audience, Chris Blansfield, a local hunter, said he’d been contacted by a potential donor to the culling program, “who asked for a plan from a small number of local hunters.” Blansfield continued, “My feeling is if it’s going to work, it’s got to be a small group — around five — who would work together, would share their permission slips and ensure that non-edible parts would be turned in or labeled. It would be a well-controlled process.”
He suggested that if local hunters were compensated for their time and expenses, they could commit to a campaign of deer reduction. When asked by Mellor how he saw this approach increasing the number of deer taken, Blansfield said, “If we’re incentivized, I think we can triple the usual take.”
A discussion on how to determine who among locals were actually qualified to take part in the hunt followed, and the task force agreed that some criteria be established for hunters — such as confirming they were licensed and that they’d taken part in years of consecutive hunts or had taken a specific number of deer.
One suggestion was that the hunter would have to show he or she had maintained a license for at least five years, and taken up to 25 deer, but the group did not settle on definitive criteria.
“Obviously it would be an experiment. We have five qualified local hunters. You should look at who’s been doing the hard work for the last number of years," Blansfield said.
Concerned with safety, Task Force member Paul Deane said, “We can get the property owners and their neighbors to give permission slips." Deane added that it might be safer if clusters of property owners gave permission to allow hunters on their land.
Perfido said that last year the task force had received a pledge of over $200,000, noting “it was enough to cover the White Buffalo [a professional company] cull.”
Member Lisa Sprague asked, “Why is it necessary to give money to professionals? Why not give it to qualified local hunters?”
Member Heather Hatfield said she thought the DEM’s “final decision was to have a professional cull.”
How many deer are left?
Blansfield also thought it very important to have an infra-red count done in the late fall. “It would be interesting to know how many animals are running around. I’m not seeing deer anything like last year," he said. "My sense is that we’ve really reduced the herd.” Mellor agreed to look into the infra-red count and report about it at the DTF’s next meeting.
Perfido thought the group needed to compile a list: information on conditions that would qualify an island hunter to be eligible for reimbursement, awareness of safety concerns and the need to set up a series of hunting dates. First Warden Kim Gaffett said, “When talking about dates, you have to either recommend or not recommend a cull.”
Perfido wondered whether or not more dates could be added later if hunting dates were set up and then a cull was done. Another local hunter, Chris Blane, said, “If it were me, I’d have regular hunting dates to the last day of February. Then for the first two weeks of March have a break, and then put in a two week window for a cull if you need it.”
Blane pointed out the local hunters would simply hunt — either with shot guns or bows and arrows [according to the season] — and not use silencers or other enhanced methods often used in culls.
Sprague asked whether it made sense to establish the order of things as follows: “First, do the infra-red count; then the DTF would assess the number of deer needing to be culled. This could be determined each year.”
Finally, member Bill McKernan asked the local hunters to help the task force put together a list of qualified hunters. Perfido said it was her understanding that “we can limit hunting to island residents as long as they meet the qualifications.”
She felt the group should be able to “come up with reasonable qualifications.”
Task force members agreed to schedule an extra meeting date on June 23, just in case more discussion were needed. Perfido listed the following as items for the next agenda: specifying hunting dates, establishing qualifications for hunters, designating payments for non-edible portions of deer killed and deciding on whether or not a professional cull was necessary.
Reached after the meeting, Perfido said, “Two things are important: we’re working this through, and this [whatever the task force recommends] will require the approval of the Town Council and the Town Solicitor.”
The next meeting date is scheduled for June 9.