Deer Task Force pushes for weekend hunting

Mon, 01/31/2022 - 6:30am

The Deer Task Force continues to face long odds on significantly reducing the deer herd on Block Island. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) technically owns and sets policy on deer in the state of Rhode Island. Currently the DEM’s stance is that hunting is the “preferred” method of controlling the size of a deer herd.
At its meeting on January 18, the task force discussed the idea of expanding seasonal hunting days to include weekends for the 2023-2024 season. Chair Sue Hagedorn called the idea “controversial,” but also said people are “frustrated.” She said it would be appropriate to suggest to the Town Council that they add weekend hunting, in order to generate a discussion on the topic. As Hagedorn pointed out, it is ultimately a Town Council decision.
Saying that the DTF has historically “struggled” with weekend hunting, Member Matt Moynihan said that restricting hunting on weekends “eliminates” a lot of hunters. But conversely, he said that allowing hunting on weekends will “provide the occasion of hunters being out there with hikers.” Although the rest of the state allows hunting on weekends, Moynihan said he would have some concerns for safety with Block Island being such a “confined space.”
Member MaryAnn Seebeck echoed the thought of allowing weekend hunting, saying that under the current schedule of weekday-only hunting it was “challenging to hunt out here if you don’t live here.” Seebeck also pointed out that hunting only occurs for part of the year. In order to “move forward,” Seebeck said she agreed with adding more days.

Moynihan noted that the DTF had discussed archery in the past, and the general feeling that there were fewer archery hunting accidents than firearm hunting accidents. Seebeck agreed, saying that bowhunting is probably safer to allow on weekends than firearm hunting. The members agreed that they were comfortable with suggesting archery only for weekend hunting in their proposal to the Town Council.

At the Town Council meeting on January 19, townsfolk were present to voice objections, with Chris Blane suggesting that the council put the item onto a work session agenda to be discussed. He said there were people that have concerns and it would be more appropriate to have a discussion, not at the end of the agenda where this item fell, but at a work session.
Doug Michel echoed Blane’s comments, pointing out that there was nothing in the agenda or on Clerkbase about the addition of weekend hunting days. The proposed weekend days would not take effect until the 2023-2024 hunting season, as the dates for next year have already been approved with no weekend or holiday hunting.
The council agreed with holding off on a discussion until the item can be more widely publicized, tabling the item until the February 7 meeting.