Cull the herd, feed Island families

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The M.V. Tick-Borne Illness Prevention Program (the Tick Program) and Island Grown Initiative (IGI) have announced several new projects aimed at reducing the deer and deer tick population on Martha’s Vineyard and providing high-quality meat to families who face food insecurity, according to a press release.

The long-term objective of the program is to reduce tick-borne diseases on the Island. Increasing the number of deer culled during hunting season is a critical first step. To reduce the number of deer in residential areas, the program is working with private landowners to encourage them to allow hunting on their properties by matching the landowner with a respected hunter. Due to the size of most properties and the proximity of neighbors, this means hunting will generally be limited to bow and arrow. Landowners with larger properties may allow hunting with shotguns or primitive firearms on certain parts of their land.

To date, 20 landowners have been matched with hunters, opening up more than 100 acres of new land to hunting. There are currently more hunters than hunting opportunities; if you are interested in reducing deer and ticks on your property, and willing to consider hunting as an option, please contact Dick Johnson at mvticks@gmail.com or 508-693-1893.

To encourage hunters to take more deer and reduce the deer population Island-wide, the Tick Program will also be subsidizing the cost of processing deer during the two-week shotgun season. Hunters who bring their deer to the State Forest check-in station will be eligible to receive a certificate good for $50 toward the cost of having their deer processed at an on-Island facility by experienced cutters. Hunters will receive their venison packaged and ready for the freezer or to be shared with friends and neighbors. More details of the subsidy program will be forthcoming as they are finalized.

For those hunters who are willing to take more deer but have no need for the meat for their families or friends, the program is partnering with Island Grown Initiative (IGI) to ensure that the venison gets to other families in need on the Island. This program will also be available this year only during the shotgun season, but hopes to expand in later years. IGI will have a truck at the check-in station at the State Forest where hunters can leave the deer once it has been checked in and inspected by the appropriate official.

IGI is outsourcing the processing of the donated deer to the Larder in Vineyard Haven, under the supervision of Jefferson Monroe. He will hire the butchers and use his commercial kitchen space. The meat will be ground with 15 to 20 percent of pork, packaged, and frozen. IGI will deliver the meat to the Island Food Pantry for distribution to its network of families who face food insecurity. The venison will be a great source of protein for these families, and will be available along with recipes for preparing the meat.

For more information about the deer donation program, please contact Rebecca Haag at rebecca@igimv.org, or call the office at 508-687-9062.