The Block Island Times
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Task Force meets and RIAC clears one deer from airport

By Judy Tierney | Nov 20, 2012

An ongoing management effort by Rhode Island Airport Corporation resulted in one deer being shot at the Block Island Airport on Wednesday night. Two wildlife biologists brought over by the United States Department of Agriculture utilized equipment for night vision according to airport manager Mark Helmboldt. Hemboldt said the USDA manages hunts for RIAC all over the state.

Though no one working at the airport the next morning, neither Helmboldt nor Lou Fagan at the New England Airlines desk, recalled a recent problem with aircraft encountering deer, Robin Fletcher, who waits tables at Bethany’s Diner, said she often sees deer “running down the runways” when she opens the diner early in the morning.

Patti Goldstein, V.P. of Public Affairs for RIAC, said in an e-mail that taking the deer was part of their wildlife management program and they had a depredation permit to remove one deer that “presented a safty hazard to the airport and aircraft.” She said that there was no precipitating event, accident, or near miss prior to the depredation.

The taking of the deer happened to coincide with the monthly meeting of Block Island’s Deer Task Force, which has been laboring for three years to convince Block Island residents, the Town Council, and the state Department of Environmental Management — which controls hunting in Rhode Island — to adapt measures to drastically reduce or eliminate the island’s deer herd. Thus far, they have succeeded in opening more island land to hunting, including some town and conservation group holdings.

A motion at the Task Force meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13, was passed to invite the DEM to hold an orientation for the public about the rules and dates for the recently approved Rodman’s Hollow hunt.

Details still need to be collected for the North Light and Beane Point hunt. Task Force member Ruth Perfido offered to work on obtaining those from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Task Force member George Mellor has made contact with White Buffalo, a company that helps communities decrease their deer herds. He was not able to have a lengthy conversation yet, he said, but did learn the company is working with Princeton, N.J., to trim its deer population from 550 to 300, for a cost of $58,000.

Perfido remarked that reducing the island’s herd would probably cost more, but still be within a range that could be fundraised. White Buffalo had given a presentation here many years ago, and Mellor remarked their price seems lower now.

Chair Mary Sue Record reported that the task group has a new web page on the town’s website (www.new-shoreham.com) with information for hunters and landowners as well as forms that can be downloaded. Member Sara McGinnes found a group in Fairfield, Conn., that is concerned with deer reduction and she said it has “a wonderful website with graphics and information.” She will contact them for ideas.

The group addressed the difficulty of collecting statistics so they can track changes in the herd and in the incidence of tick-borne diseases. They are waiting for the Block Island Health Center’s calculations on the incidence of Lyme Disease for 2011 and 2012. Record has made a request.

Last year, hunters were asked, but not required, to mail in postcards to the Department of Environmental Management to record the number of deer they had taken. Record said the count could have easily been underreported. The final count received from DEM did not delineate the hunting method used to take the animals, so there is no way to determine how many were shot by guns versus arrows. Record expects this year’s reports will be similar.

Because the group needs more accurate statistics, they would like to bring back Block Island check stations. Blane is almost finished working on a new plan for resinstituting them. He will present it at the December meeting.

The group also worked on year-end chores. Record asked members to consider whether or not they wish to remain on the Task Force in 2013. She announced her own resignation, both as chair and as a member. Although she is resigning for personal reasons, Record said that the group had accomplished an important goal of opening more island land to hunting and would move on to another phase. She predicted strong support from the incoming Town Council and emphasized the Task Force has strong members now. Blane also said he is giving thought as to whether to continue on the task force.

A draft of the group’s annual report was distributed and comments will be incorporated before it is presented to the new Town Council.

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