The Deer Task Force continues to face long odds of significantly reducing the deer herd on Block Island. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) owns and technically sets deer policy in the state of Rhode Island. Currently, the DEM position is that hunting is the “preferred” method of controlling the size of a deer herd.
At its January 18 meeting, the working group discussed the idea of extending seasonal hunting days to weekends for the 2023-2024 season. Chair Sue Hagedorn called the idea “controversial” but also said people were “frustrated”. She said that it would be appropriate to suggest to the municipal council to add weekend hunting, in order to generate a discussion on the subject. As Hagedorn pointed out, this is ultimately a decision of the city council.
Saying the DTF has historically “struggled” with weekend hunting, member Matt Moynihan said restricting weekend hunting “kills” a lot of hunters. But conversely, he said allowing weekend hunting “will provide an opportunity for hunters to be out there with hikers”. Although the rest of the state allows weekend hunting, Moynihan said he would have safety concerns with Block Island being a “confined space.”
Member MaryAnn Seebeck echoed the idea of allowing weekend hunting, saying that under the current weekday-only hunting schedule, it’s ‘hard to hunt here if you don’t live here’ . Seebeck also pointed out that hunting only takes place part of the year. In order to “move forward,” Seebeck said she was okay with adding more days.
Moynihan noted that the DTF had discussed archery in the past and the general feeling that there were fewer archery hunting accidents than firearm hunting accidents. . Seebeck agreed, saying bow hunting is probably safer to allow on weekends than gun hunting. Members agreed that they were comfortable suggesting archery only for weekend hunting in their proposal to City Council.
At the January 19 town council meeting, townspeople were present to voice their objections, with Chris Blane suggesting that council put the item on the agenda for a business meeting to discuss. He said that there were people who had concerns and that it would be more appropriate to have a discussion, not at the end of the agenda where this item fell, but during a job.
Doug Michel echoed Blane’s comments, pointing out that there was nothing on the agenda or on Clerkbase about adding weekend hunting days. The proposed weekend days would not come into effect until the 2023-2024 hunting season, as dates for next year have already been approved with no weekend or holiday hunting.
The board agreed to suspend discussion until the item could be more widely circulated, tabling it until the Feb. 7 meeting.