OLD TOWN, Maine — The first deer hunt in recent memory conducted on Marsh Island was not an overwhelming success. Still, city councilors voted unanimously Thursday night to authorize an expanded annual bow hunt to be organized and regulated by the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and conducted by the Bowhunter/Landowners Information Program, or BLIP, of the Maine Bowhunters Association.
BLIP hunters participating in last year’s herd-reduction hunt harvested only eight deer during the first two weeks of December, despite widespread acknowledgement that the burgeoning deer population on Marsh Island represents a growing public safety hazard as well as a nuisance. During a review of the hunt at Thursday night’s City Council meeting, DIF&W wildlife biologist Mark Caron said the disappointing harvest reflected a number of factors, including inclement weather and the lateness of the season.
Caron said the two city-owned parcels set aside for last year’s hunt — one at the end of Penny Road and the other near the municipal airport — both showed evidence of ample deer populations in October and November. But by December, he said, the deer had moved out of the airport area. The Penny Road parcel continued to support large numbers of deer, he said, but the cold, wet weather kept both hunters and deer lying low.
By moving this year’s bow hunt forward into the first three weeks of October and expanding huntable areas to include both municipal parcels and private lands, the harvest likely would be more successful at reducing the number of deer on the island, Caron said.
The authorization approved by council members allows DIF&W to move forward with rule making to establish the regulated hunt as an annual event. Caron said the department would work with local landowners to identify areas where deer congregate in large numbers and encourage them to open their properties to the herd-reduction effort. Councilors amended the authorization to include posting publicly a map of all private lands designated for the hunt.
Caron will meet with municipal leaders in Orono next week to encourage the town’s participation.
Marsh Island, which incorporates the more populated areas of Orono and Old Town as well as thousands of acres owned by the University of Maine, has been a classified wildlife management area for decades. Although trapping has been allowed for many years, hunting has not. Heated debate has pitted deer lovers against those residents who blame the unchecked deer herd for an increased number of car-deer accidents and horticultural frustrations.