DTF reacts to deer culling planHas about $130K promised to offset costs
The pros and cons of the recent announcement of “emergency regulations” implemented by the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) to reduce the island’s deer herd were debated at the most recent Deer Task Force (DTF) meeting on Nov. 12.
The regulations came about as the result of ongoing discussions the DEM had with two members of the DTF, Chair Ruth Perfido and Becky Ballard. The main component of the plan, that it will be a non-recreational hunt, was a focus of the discussion.
Though DTF member George Mellor saw the plan as “a tremendous step forward,” he took issue with the use of commercial hunters. “The plan as I see it is that they want to use professional hunters and we wanted to use island hunters,” Mellor said.
“From day one, we have known the DEM will only use a professional deer reduction plan. They’ve worked with other municipalities in this way,” said Perfido. “It is not a program to use local hunters. The DEM will contract with persons who will only work on deer reduction.”
Mellor felt this arrangement would “be an issue between local hunters and professional hunters.” Perfido insisted that the DEM would only work with a professional group and pointed out that the conservancies that met with the DEM were also looking for professional deer reduction. “This is a managed hunt out at Black Rock,” she said.
Addressing Mellor, member Heather Hatfield said, “This is just their managed hunt; local hunters will still be able to do [recreational] hunting.”
Another matter of concern to Mellor was the budget. Based on an article he’d read in The Block Island Times (Nov. 9), Mellor said the DEM was asking the island to pay for the program. “There is an issue of us supplying the money and their management of the cull. We have to see about the budget.”
Perfido said that she didn’t think raising money would be an issue and noted that close to $130,000 had already been committed in donations. The cost of the plan is currently unknown.
Vice President Becky Ballard noted that the DEM had just issued a press release explaining the new regulations and the planned program of deer reduction on the island. “We know what the DEM’s reasoning is about why they insist on a professional hunt,” Ballard said.
She was referring to the Administrative Findings outlined in the new state regulations, established as part of Rhode Island General Laws. Their stated purpose is “to establish a non-recreational program to reduce the over population of Virginia white-tailed deer on Block Island where traditional management methods have been unsuccessful in reducing the deer population, and its current overpopulation presents an imminent risk to the health, safety and welfare to the natural resources.”
Perfido pointed out that an open meeting was being planned that would bring together DEM representatives, DTF members, the Town Council and members of the public. The date had not yet been determined, she said. She suggested that people write to the Town Council expressing their views on the program of deer reduction. Feeling strongly about it, Perfido said, “It’s our chance to have significant deer reduction.”
Bob Fallon, President of Block Island Health Services board, questioned how long the regulations characterized as ‘emergency’ would be in place. His understanding of such temporary rules was that they were “only good for 90 days.”
Both Perfido and Ballard thought the duration was 260 days, but in any event, Ballard said, the public would have an opportunity to be heard on the subject at the upcoming town-wide meeting with the DEM. First Warden Kim Gaffett has previously said that a public meeting, with all the key players, including the DEM, will be scheduled sometime between Nov. 25 and Dec. 7.
Hatfield reported her attendance at a recent BIHS board meeting and said the group had only tangentially touched on tick- disease identification methods. BIHS Executive Director Barbara Baldwin said that she and Fallon and the health care providers at the local medical center would speak with Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) Director Dr. Michael Fine on Friday, in a conference call on Nov. 15. Some discussion ensued on how or when cases of Lyme disease around the state were reported to the DOH. All agreed that the numbers were generally under-reported.
Hats off for fundraising
Ballard noted she was in receipt of a second shipment of 48 lime-colored caps (with the logo “Ticked off”) to be sold in an ongoing fundraiser. In an attempt to figure out how best to make them available for sale during the Christmas Stroll weekend following Thanksgiving, the group suggested a number of locations including the Chamber’s visitor center, at the Turkey Trot race and distribution at a number of local businesses.
Hatfield volunteered to check into various point-of-sale possibilities.