AUGUSTA, Maine — More than a year after Islesboro residents voted to kill about 80 percent of the island’s deer herd, the state has signed off on a hunt that will be held for the next three years. Island residents have expressed concern over a high incidence of Lyme disease, which is carried by deer ticks, and an island task force has studied the issue for some time.
According to Doug Rafferty, the information and education director of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the “depredation hunt” will begin on Dec. 10 this year — the rule calls for the season to begin the Monday after the state’s expanded zone archery season ends — and will end on Dec. 31 each year through 2014.
At an island meeting held in August of 2011, voters approved killing about 400 of the estimated 500 deer that live on the island. The vote was 100-28, according to BDN reports at the time.
Islesboro is an island of about 600 year-round residents, about 70 of whom have contracted Lyme disease, according to previous reports. At least 20 were diagnosed with the disease in 2011, and about 20 more cases were suspected but unconfirmed.
DIF&W commissioner Chandler Woodcock and the Maine attorney general’s office signed off on the rulemaking cover sheet establishing the Islesboro hunt on Sept. 26.
According to the DIF&W “basis statement” explaining the reasoning for the new hunting season, the Islesboro Deer Reduction Committee received consultation on two deer population estimates. Both of those consultations indicated that the deer population was abnormally high for such a small area.
In one study the density was established at 50 deer per square mile; in the other, the estimate was 48 deer per square mile.
According to published BDN accounts, a healthy deer population density in Maine is about 10 deer per square mile.