Deer are subject of state wildlife board meeting
The Island's burgeoning deer population will be the focus of a public presentation when the state Fisheries and Wildlife board meets formally on Martha's Vineyard for the first time Wednesday.
The board's regular formal business meeting will be followed by an informational session during which William Woytek, state deer project leader, will describe the condition of the Island deer herd. A discussion will follow during which public comment will be allowed.
Interest in deer season tallies is no longer restricted to hunters. An increase in tick-borne diseases, vegetation damage, and vehicle-deer collisions caused by increased deer densities in some areas of the state has led to wider support for expanded hunting seasons among nonhunters.
The meeting is expected to be well-attended by members of an ad hoc citizens group called the tick task force, formed last year to address the growing incidence of Lyme Disease. The group has discussed ways to increase hunting opportunities as a means of decreasing the number of deer, which are the primary host for the adult deer tick, which is capable of laying thousands of eggs.
The seven-member DFW board, all of whom are unpaid volunteers appointed by the governor from various areas of the state, makes regulations, sets policy, and oversees personnel appointments.
George Darey of Lenox represents the Western Wildlife District. In a telephone conversation from his home, Mr. Darey, a respected conservationist, spoke about the work of the board he has chaired for the last 25 years.
Mr. Darey, a committed sportsman, has dedicated much of his life to the board. Over the years, the retired schoolteacher has passed on a number of high-level state jobs.
"I would have had to give up the board and I feel that on the fish and wildlife board if you pay attention you can get more done than in most state jobs," he said.
Mr. Darey said the fisheries and wildlife board has a great deal of power and independence and that allows for the creation of sound management policies. He said in many states, legislative interests often dictate wildlife and hunting policy.
Mr. Darey said his board sets all rules and regulations for his agency and points with pride to the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, which has served as a model for other states.
He said the return of the osprey and eagle to Massachusetts are the result of programs overseen by the fisheries and wildlife board. "We got the eagle chicks from Canada and Alaska and today we have nesting eagle in all parts of Massachusetts," he said.
Mr. Darey said the board's Vineyard visit arises from a policy he instituted of holding board meetings in different parts of the state during good weather.
The official part of the meeting will include a board vote on new regulations banning the importation of deer parts from that are intended to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease to the state's deer herd.
He said the Vineyard's current one-week shotgun season was put in place because that was what the Islanders wanted at the time. "We did not want that in the first place," said Mr. Darey.
He said before any change or increase could take place in the Vineyard's deer season, the board would ask to hear recommendations from state biologists and hold a public hearing to gauge public sentiment.
Hunting as a tool
Hunting remains the most effective way to control deer numbers, say wildlife managers. As a result, wildlife managers and public officials are continually reviewing hunting regulation for the archery, shotgun, and black powder seasons with the goal or reducing deer numbers.
One subject expected to be discussed Wednesday is an expansion of the Vineyard's one-week shotgun season. Except for the deer management areas that encompass Cape Cod and the Islands, hunters in the rest of the state have two weeks to pursue deer using a shotgun.
Public wildlife managers rely primarily on the shotgun season to make a major dent in the state's burgeoning deer herd. For years state wildlife officials have expressed an interest in increasing the Vineyard's season, but they said it all depended on the amount of public support by leaders in the six towns.
Nantucket took the two-week season one step further when in 2003 it received DFW approval for a special one-week deer shotgun hunt last February to deal with what many on Nantucket now consider a public health menace. But a winter deluge of off-Island hunters riled many Nantucketers and a repeat of the special season is now in doubt.
Salmon woes spawn agency
According to information on the state web site (www.mass.gov/ dfwele/dfw/), the division was founded as a state fisheries commission in 1866 in response to citizen concerns about the loss of Atlantic salmon to dams and pollution. Several years ago the division was renamed MassWildlife, a name now used interchangeably.
The agency, which includes the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, is responsible for the conservation and protection of state wildlife and habitat.
It derives most of its funding from the sale of hunting, trapping and fishing licenses, stamps and permits; returns from federal taxes on hunting and fishing equipment; voluntary donations; and various bond initiatives used primarily for land purchase.
State law requires that each state wildlife management district be represented and that one board member be experienced in farming, one be a wildlife biologist, and one have expertise in endangered species conservation.
The board that will meet on Martha's Vineyard is made up of a number of veteran members, many with interests in hunting, fishing, and conservation.
John Creedon of North Easton, vice chairman, is an attorney and assistant district attorney for Plymouth County.
Michael Roche of Orange, board secretary, represents the Connecticut Valley Wildlife District. Mr. Roche, a former high school teacher, is currently the regional director for Ducks Unlimited in Massachusetts, an outdoor writer and director of the Massachusetts Junior Conservation Camp.
Ernest Foster, Jr. of Worcester, a businessman and builder, represents the Central Wildlife District and helped develop the nonprofit Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife Conservation Endowment.
Russell Cookingham of Bourne, is the board's professional wildlife biologist. The retired former director of the Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife for the state of New Jersey chairs the board's finance committee.
Joseph Larson of Pelham is the board's specialist in endangered species habitat and serves as the board's liaison to the Natural Heritage advisory committee, where he is a full voting member.]
Mr. Larson is professor emeritus and former Chairman of the Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management and Director of The Environmental Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Frederic Winthrop of Ipswich represents both the Northeast Wildlife District of Massachusetts and agricultural interests on the board. He is the former executive director of The Trustees of Reservations.