BAR HARBOR — Public informational meetings to discuss the proposed deer herd management plan to be voted on in November have been set for two days next month.
Deer herd control task force members will be available to answer questions about the proposed plan on Thursday, Oct. 2, and again on Monday, Oct. 27. Both meetings will begin at 7 p.m. in town council chambers, upstairs in the municipal building.
The deer task force began meeting in February 2013 and this year recommended to town councilors that Bar Harbor be opened to deer hunting for the first time since the 1930s. The recommendation was developed on the basis that the town has exceeded its “social carrying capacity” for deer, meaning that landscape destruction, car-deer accidents and Lyme disease incidence all are too high for people to feel comfortable with.
The deer task force includes biologists, hunters, Acadia National Park representatives, conservationists and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) representatives. Their 7-page final report, released in August of this year, is available at BarHarborMaine.gov.
The suggested management strategy includes a wintertime firearms hunt to occur for two years or more, during which property owners or their designees would be able to take an unlimited number of deer. Hunting would occur only from fixed tree stands or ground blinds. All participants would be required to register with the town in advance of the hunt.
Land within Acadia National Park and the greater downtown area would be closed to hunting.
All Maine hunting regulations would be in play, with an exemption allowing the use of “attractants,” or bait under certain circumstances. One focus of the program would be to identify properties in areas of high deer-vehicle collisions, and the task force determined that the use of attractants would increase effectiveness in these areas. If permitted, those properties deploying attractants would be pre-registered with MDIFW and be subject to monitoring and inspections.
Those not wishing to keep the venison from the deer hunted on their property should be able to donate it to local food pantries through the organization Hunters for the Hungry. The state-run program assists in the collection of unwanted venison from hunters, pays for its processing and coordinates distribution of the meat to food security groups. Hunters for the Hungry is willing to work with Bar Harbor in the special deer reduction program, and a mandatory donation component is under consideration, according to the task force’s August report.
Long-term management plans call for an annual archery season to occur in October or possibly later in the fall. This would be managed by the MDIFW like any other deer hunting season elsewhere in the state.
In advance of the informational meetings next month, citizens may email their questions to [email protected] Residents will vote on the proposal when they go to the polls on Nov. 4.