To the Editor:
I agree with letters appearing in the last few weeks that call for the removal of deer, ticks and tick-borne diseases. In particular, I share the disagreement of P.S. Wood with The Block Island Times editorial of Sept. 15, 2018. If there truly is a law stating that the “the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management owns the deer” and precludes deer elimination, it is a law belonging on the historical ash heap of many past irrational and unenforceable laws. The idea that the deer herd “must be maintained” as a sport while incurring 40 to 70 victims of deer related diseases on island — some very serious — is equally irrational.
Consider the following: throughout the years 2000/2001 to 2012/2013, there were, on average, an estimated 200 deer killed every year; mostly by island hunters. This prevented the herd from expanding to devastating numbers. Using the DEM reproductive rate of 0.6, new-born deer per existing deer (male and female, fawns and adults), it is straightforward to estimate that there were 534 deer before the hunting season and 334 x 1.6 = 534 (1.0 from the standing population plus the 0.6 reproduction rate) again after the hunting season. These numbers may be low due to unreported kills. Multiple aerial counts, though widely at variance, seems to support a larger number, say 700 before the season.
The current plan — devised after some trials by the Deer Task Force and enabled for the 2014-2015 season — is that island hunters are paid $150 per deer tail. This immediately increased the total cull to about 350, well above the previous averages, and this yearly rate prevailed approximately into the 2016-2017 season. This should have significantly reduced the herd and a reduction is supported by anecdotal evidence. Thus, perhaps because of time lag, reductions in the reported tick-borne diseases have yet to be realized.
The above “1.6 algorithm” does not apply since the short time period precludes an estimate of an average. Nevertheless, let us speculate: Suppose a near-steady state population of 100 before a hunting season is achieved over a period of years. Using the 1.6 magic number again would dictate that the sustaining, hunting season cull would be 38 at a cost of about $6,000.
The above numbers are rough estimates. Nevertheless, at low herd numbers, it might be feasible to devise schemes for deer and tick elimination for which island citizens would need support from the Block Island Town Council, The Block Island Times and, by a leap of faith, the State of Rhode Island. And, by the way, where is the Deer Task Force?
Cat Rock Road