Bar Harbor deer hunt is rejected

deer-herd-11414BAR HARBOR — A proposed plan that would have opened the town to deer hunting for the first time since the early 1930s was shot down at the polls Tuesday.

By a vote of 1,371 to 1,175, residents here followed the warrant committee’s recommendation and voted against the deer management plan.

Under the proposal, areas outside of the downtown would have been opened to a special wintertime deer hunt for one or more seasons. The hunt would have allowed use of firearms from a fixed location, along with the use of an attractant. A regular fall archery hunt, controlled by state wildlife officials, would have followed in perpetuity.

The purpose of the hunt would have been to bring the deer population to an acceptable “social carrying capacity.” This would have translated on the ground as less car accidents, less garden damage, and possibly less Lyme disease exposure, according to those who wrote the plan.

Biologists familiar with the area do not have formal deer surveys to go on, but say that the apparent size of the herd does not seem to have outgrown their ecological carrying capacity. Opponents of the plan often cited both of these facts as reasons to keep the hunting ban.

The management plan was the creation of the deer herd control task force, a committee comprised of citizens, scientists and state and federal biologists who began working under the auspices of the town council in Feb. 2013.

The proposed plan began gathering shape in a year ago, after a 56 percent of approximately 1300 respondents to a mail survey indicated that the deer population was a problem and that management alternatives should be explored.

A vocal group of opponents have argued all along that the area should remain a refuge to deer. All of Mount Desert Island was closed to deer hunting in the early 1930s by special law of the Maine legislature, after requests from island summer residents.

Hunting of waterfowl, birds, coyotes and other animals is allowed in areas outside of downtown. Property owners can apply for special permits from state game wardens to hunt deer on their own land if they meet spatial requirements and can prove a nuisance problem.

The warrant committee had voted 6 to 5 to recommend defeat.

Town councilors had narrowly voiced their support, by a vote of 4-3.

Robert Levin

Robert Levin

Former reporter Robert Levin covered the people, businesses, governmental and nonprofit agencies of Bar Harbor. [email protected]
Robert Levin

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