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Fate of deer in hands of Council

December 8, 2012

LINCOLN – The Town Council’s ordinance subcommittee will consider the fate of a burgeoning local population of deer when it holds a special meeting Monday on revisions to the town’s ban on hunting.
The ordinance change, under consideration by the three-member Council subcommittee for the past two months, would allow the taking of deer by archery equipment during a deer-only hunting season. The hunting of birds and animals has been banned locally since 1994.
The subcommittee is expected to meet on the ordinance change in Town Council Chambers at Town Hall beginning at 7 p.m. Monday. Public comment is expected to be allowed during the informational session.
The measure was brought forward by supporting members of the Council as a way to reduce damage from deer eating the vegetation on local property or running out into the path of motor vehicles, as well as the threat of increased cases of Lyme disease in the town.
The ordinance change would permit the hunting of deer on privately-owned parcels of land 5 acres or more by archery equipment. The hunters, operating in compliance with state hunting regulations, would need permission from the owner of the property where the hunting would occur and also be required to file a letter noting permission from the police department.
The proposed ordinance has generated talk in the town about its merits; one resident noted it even came up at a local youth sports meeting where an informal poll showed opinions to be nearly evenly divided on it.
Councilman Kenneth Pichette and Council President Keith Macksoud have supported introduction of the ordinance change and Councilmen John Flynn and James Jahnz are among residents voicing concern. Flynn, contacted Friday regarding tomorrow’s session, said he has proposed a differently structured change that would allow deer hunting as a last resort in a multi-step process evaluating whether the deer population posed a safety threat to local residents.
The Council’s fifth member and chair of the subcommittee, Arthur Russo, may cast the deciding vote if the hunting ordinance revision is forwarded for consideration by the full panel, according to Flynn.
Flynn said he has received a large number of calls and emails about the deer ordinance, more than he has received on any other topic during his six years on the panel, and those contacts were predominately all against a renewed deer hunting option in the town.
The proposal does have the support of responsible hunting groups such as the Manville Rod and Gun Club, Flynn said, but he noted that residents have also voiced concern about outside hunters who may come into the town once a hunting season is opened.
“Residents are worried about people who would come in and not be responsible,” he said.
Property owners of parcels of five acres or more may also object to being contacted for permission to hunt on their land, he said. Flynn’s proposed ordinance would require the formal creation of a zone classification for suitable hunting land.
Flynn said he believes concern over how developed the town had become prompted the implantation of a ban on hunting in 1994.
“This is a suburban community and hunting is usually done in rural communities,” he said.
The state Department of Environmental Management sent representatives to the ordinance committee’s initial meeting on the proposal and supported the change as a potential model method of controlling a growing deer population for a community like Lincoln, Flynn noted.
Concerns over increased cases of Lyme disease have been mentioned during local debate of the hunting option but Flynn said information has also been cited for the spread of Lyme-bearing ticks by other types of wildlife.
“I don’t think you can totally blame Lyme disease on deer altogether,” he said. There are also other methods of controlling deer populations in a community outside of hunting, such as fencing and access control, according to the council member.
Rather than local hunting on private property, the Council might also wish to consider restricting it to public property where access can be more easily controlled, he suggested. Many other communities that permit deer hunting do so on public lands for that reason, he said.
Hunting is prohibited in state parks, but allowed in designated DEM-supervised state management lands under the agency’s hunting regulations.
Lincoln police and Town Administrator T. Joseph Almond pointed out that a resumption of hunting could add supervision of hunted properties to the duties of already-busy police officers, according to Flynn.
“Their main concern was that it could be an enforcement problem,” he said.
While Flynn said he could reconsider his position of opposition as the debate continues, he also suggested that the proposed ordinance to resume hunting needs much more work than has been done to date.
Some states, for example, only allow archery hunting from tree stands since the bolts fired at the animals are pointed downward and pose less of a threat to flying off-target at greater distances.

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