DTF recommends special deer huntPrivate land will need to be opened up
The Deer Task Force (DTF) decided to send a recommendation to the Town Council asking them to approve a special and controlled night hunt for deer to radically decrease or eliminate the island’s tick-infested deer herd. The vote was unanimous at the task force’s Monday evening meeting.
First Warden Kim Gaffett attended to alert task force members that they only have three weeks to submit a budget for a special hunt for 2013-1014. Otherwise, the town would have to wait another year before being able to fund one.
This motivated the task force members to choose one of the three plans they had been debating. DTF member Paul Deane said that two of the plans, the Skidway and White Buffalo Sharpshooter plans, were essentially identical. Both utilized the spotlighting and baiting for night hunting. The difference between the two, Deane said, is that Skidway uses local hunters and costs less. The third plan, offering hunter bounties, was not thought by any DTF member to be adequate.
They chose a modified Skidway Plan modeled after one used successfully in Skidway, Georgia, a barrier sea island near Savannah. The plan will be carried out over five years, with three night hunts each year. The DTF is recommending three local hunters be hired to carry out the hunts.
To be successful in trimming the deer herd, the DTF will need to recruit as many private landowners as possible to open their properties to the hunt and to make a special effort to gain access to public lands.
Even if town council approves the special hunt, the DTF will need Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) permission as well. DEM’s rules prohibit baiting and spotlighting, and the DTF is going to request an exception for Block Island. A scheduled meeting this month with the DEM had to be cancelled, but Task Force member Sara McGinnes said perhaps that will work in the DTF’s favor, because if the town council backs the modified Skidmore Plan, the DEM might then also make an exception to their hunting rules for Block Island and allow it.
The recommended budget for the first year is $12,500 and includes funding for one helicopter flight to count the deer, three hunters, deer carcass removal, equipment and administrative costs.
Gaffett agreed to place the recommendation on the council’s agenda for Monday, April 1.
Hunting calendar recommendations
The deer task force is recommending a major change in the hunting schedule for next season. They will ask town council to start all deer hunting on Oct. 15, 2013, with shotguns, muzzleloaders and archery.
Usually, the archery hunt begins in October (after the Columbus Day weekend); muzzleloader in November, and shotgun from December through February.
Member Sara McGinnes pushed for the change to extend all weapon hunting through to the end of season, Feb. 20. The calendar excludes holidays, weekends and Halloween from any hunting and the town council marks several days of the hunt for pheasant.
The DTF did not make a recommendation about the pheasant hunt.