“Make this the year!”
The Deer Task Force met on Tuesday, June 1 for its first meeting with its new members. The DTF elected Member Susan Hagedorn as chair for the first order of business. She explained that she joined the Task Force because she wants to decrease tick borne diseases, and she believes it would be okay to eliminate the whole herd. She mentioned that “anybody who has been on the island for awhile has had Lyme or some other tick-borne disease.” Hagedorn also asked the other new members why they are on the task force.
Member Jeffrey Wright said that this is his fifth year on the island. He is a lifelong hunter, but this past season was the first he has hunted on Block Island. He said that being a part of the DTF is a way to give back to the community.
Police Chief Matthew Moynihan will also be a member of the task force, unless he designates one of his officers to fill the role. He said he would like a “better understanding of what the task force is all about.” He said he had some knowledge of how things had been done in the past and thought there were some areas that could be improved upon.
Hagedorn said the DTF should look at the history of what has been done. She said the “passion” of the DTF has not been as strong as it should have been in the past, saying “we haven’t done what we said we were going to do.” She pointed to the stated mission of the DTF, to “dramatically reduce or eliminate deer as a means to reduce the incidents of Lyme and other tick borne diseases on Block Island.”
Member Terry Delaney said we need a survey, an “accurate census” of how many deer there actually are, in order to determine how many should be culled. He said the DTF needed to figure out what number of deer it wanted in the herd, how to get there, and how many deer would have to be culled yearly to keep the number.
Wright said he thought two hundred deer had been taken on Block Island this year, but said that number does not “dramatically reduce” the herd.
“Do we take half? Is that dramatic? Do we take half this year and half next year?” Wright asked.
Moynihan questioned if it would even be possible to take half in a year. It is estimated the herd stands at one thousand animals.
Delaney agreed with Moynihan, speculating it might take two or three years to cull half the deer population. He said they needed to think in terms of a “reasonable time frame.”
Hagedorn said she thought the goal should be to make significant progress this year, stating, “make this the year that we actually make progress with this issue!”
The task force then brainstormed ideas including a mobile gutting operation and freezer truck to ship the carcasses off-island for donation to a food bank. They also discussed opening up conserved land for hunting, offering incentives for doe hunting, baiting the deer, deer sterilization, and Lyme disease vaccination.
Hagedorn brought the group back to focus on gathering information for their next meeting, with members each taking an assignment: getting a quote for a helicopter infrared survey to get an accurate census of the deer herd; contacting DEM to learn the guidelines and constraints the group must work under; contacting the medical center to find out how extensive the Lyme disease problem is; and determining how many auto accidents involve deer each year. Delaney and Hagedorn also both talked about the importance of speaking to other island residents, especially past DTF members, about strategies and ideas for the group moving forward.
The group plans to reconvene with their information and find out just how many deer are out there, how many they want to cull, and how to go about doing that.
The new members plan to communicate by email with each other through the clerk, Amy Doran, as they were cautioned that they could not meet and discuss DTF business with each other outside of a meeting, for risk of establishing a quorum in violation of open meeting laws.