Blue Hills Deer Hunt
by Alexander Chen on Friday, December 11th, 2015
Celebrating the end of a hunting-free 122-year history of the Blue Hills Reservation, the Blue Hills Deer Hunt sparked controversy in Milton Academy’s own backyard. The hunt was held in two 2-day segments. The dates of the hunt included: Monday, November 30; Tuesday, December 1; Monday, December 7; Tuesday, December 8. Out of the 2,403 applications for permits, only 196 permits were distributed. Each two-day segment will have 98 hunters participating in the controlled hunt.
The Department of Conservation and Recreation of Massachusetts (DCR) gave the reason for this new deer hunt. The Massachusetts state website said that “the considerable deer densities within the reservation” needed to be addressed. According to Mass.gov, the DCR’s long-term goal was “to reach and maintain an ecologically sustainable deer density that fosters the restoration of native vegetation, promotes healthy habitat for other wildlife, and allows for the continuous growth and regeneration of the forest.” In summary, the deer population in the reservation was too high for all the deer to survive and for the environment to prosper.
The density of the Blue Hills Reservation was found to be 85 deer per square mile according to a 2013 report commissioned by state Senator Brian A. Joyce, according to NPR. The Boston Globe reported that deputy commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation Matthew Sisk said a healthy population is between seven and 14 deer per square mile. Additionally, according to a deer management plan written by the DCR on the state’s website, “vehicle collisions in the area as well as the contraction of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses by neighbors and visitors have been noted as significant and emerging community concerns” due to the large density of deer. To fight these emerging issues, the Blue Hills Deer Hunt was created. In the same Boston Globe article, the DCR emphasizes that the hunt is not for providing “a new recreational opportunity at the Blue Hills.”
Protesting the deer hunt, members of the Friends of Blue Hills Deer, a non-profit organization, stood in between the hunters and officers who kept track of reported kills. The organization’s website remarked that the group’s goal is “preserving and protecting the Blue Hills Reservation’s natural beauty, diverse natural habitats, and many recreational opportunities.” Chanting “No more hunting! In our Parks!”, members of the group advocated a nonviolent way to reduce the deer population in the reservation. Members of Friends of Blue Hills Deer, as well as animal rights activists, felt that there was already too much violence in the world, according to The Telegram.
In response to these protests, Matthew Sisk of the Boston Globe said that the state would not participate in other ways to manage the population, like animal contraception and a trap-and-transfer program, because of cost and ineffectiveness. This disagreement between protesters and organizers of the deer hunt has proven to be an obstacle in this inaugural occurrence of the Blue Hills Deer Hunt.
Another Boston Globe article mentioned that one hunter, Ken White, felt the hunt was “a unique opportunity” to “help the cause and hopefully harvest a deer.” Many hunters and spectators believe that the hunt is a good choice.
In a way, the hunt can be thought as a community event that gives people living in Milton and nearby towns a chance to support one another in improving the reservation. Although the deer hunt is only for four days, the effect of the hunt will last for years. Whether this tactic remains as a method for controlling the deer population or a different way of population control is chosen, the Blue Hills Deer Hunt is already a momentous step in the history of the reservation.
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