Deer carcasses dumped in Edgartown

Nelson Sigelman

The deer hunting season ended on the last day of December, but the remnants of butchered deer now pose a dilemma for Edgartown officials.

Off Meshacket Road, just past the old landfill, a dirt road leads to a large town-designated lot where commercial fishermen and the town shellfish department store boats and fishing gear.

At the side of the dirt road, just off the pavement, there are large piles of scallop waste. Edgartown provides a designated area, according to town health agent Matt Poole, in an effort to control where fishermen dump shells.

Sunday, among the piles of shells, there were also carcasses of approximately 20 butchered deer. Rib cages and deer parts, perhaps dragged by animals, littered the roadside.

One emailer to The Martha’s Vineyard Times said the deer parts were within view of anyone walking along Dunham’s Path just off the main road.

“It is a problem,” said Mr. Poole, who attributed it to irresponsible individuals and not reflective of hunters as a whole. The area has provided an informal dumping ground for years, he said, one the town does not sanction. He said one obstacle is that there is no formalized means of disposing of butchered animals in a satisfactory way.

Mr. Poole said periodically the town highway department uses equipment to pick up the scallop shells and the carcasses. They are mixed together and disposed of as compost.

Mr. Poole said that he inspected the area Monday, after receiving questions from The Martha’s Vineyard Times. He did not like what he saw and told The Martha’s Vineyard Times it would be cleaned up within a few days. He said possible future solutions could include finding an agreed upon means of disposing of the remains as well as enforcement of regulations that prohibit dumping.

Massachusetts wildlife officials and Island leaders agree that the Martha’s Vineyard deer hunting benefits both the public and hunters, checking a burgeoning deer population thought to contribute to an increase in tick-borne diseases, as well as a source of venison.

But, Island hunters find a variety of ways to dispose of butchered deer. Some simply return the carcass to the forest. Hunters who are considerate of public perceptions and property owners do their best to find an out-of-the-way spot. But, there are other methods.

In many cases, hunters place the remains in heavy duty trash bags and bring them to the dump where the, “don’t ask, don’t tell,” rule applies to bags, including those filled with deer parts.

Richard Combra Jr., Oak Bluffs highway superintendent, said that while some deer are dumped, it is not a large problem. He said it is likely that most deer waste is disposed of in the waste stream.

On Nantucket, the growth of that island’s deer herd is considered a public health issue. Deer hunting is encouraged as part of an island effort to reduce the high incidence of tick-borne diseases, deer-vehicle collisions, and environmental damage.

The difference is that Nantucket has something that Vineyard officials have talked about for years, a compost facility that dramatically reduces the amount of trash that must be trucked off that island.

On Nantucket, deer carcasses are placed in the compost “digesters,” said a town official, and end up as compost fertilizer. Carcass dumping is not a big problem, she added.