BAR HARBOR — A wintertime deer hunt that would allow an unlimited number of deer to be killed could take place during the next two years if a draft wildlife management plan is approved in November.
The hunt would allow the legal killing of deer for the first time in 80 years on Mount Desert Island and would be limited to private land outside of Acadia National Park and downtown proper. Firearm use would be allowed, but only from tree stands or stationary blinds. Hunters would be allowed to bait the deer to those areas.
After the initial hunts, a regular, autumn hunt would limit hunters to bow and arrow.
Hunting by firearm is currently allowed in Bar Harbor outside the downtown for animals other than deer, according to state regulations.
Maine law prohibits the discharge of a firearm within 300 feet of a residence. Property owners can also post their land as closed to hunting.
The number of deer to be taken would not be restricted during the two-to four-week winter hunt, “in order to maximize the short-term reduction effort,” the draft plan states. “The challenge will be to effectively reduce the deer population to levels that minimize issues of public concern.”
The draft plan was developed by the deer herd control task force (DHCTF) in conjunction with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife(IFW). Work on it was begun after 56 percent of property owners supported exploring deer management alternatives in an Oct. 2013 survey. Final approval must come first from town meeting and then from IFW officials.
Town councilors on Tuesday accepted the task force’s draft plan, ordered a final version back by July 15, and set Aug. 5 as a tentative date for a public hearing. They plan to sign the order for the November election warrant by mid-August and move the deer control plan to the warrant committee for review by the end of that month.
While there are no current estimates of deer densities in Bar Harbor, there is substantial anecdotal evidence to suggest that deer are at or above their social carrying capacity, or, the population density that people can tolerate living with. Car-deer accidents have increased 2.5 times since the early 2000s, and the incidence of Lyme disease has increased four-fold since 2006, the report states.
The short-term winter hunts proposed by the DHCTF would last from two to four weeks in late December and early January. All hunting would have to be done from stationary locations that have been registered with the town. Only Bar Harbor property owners or their designees would be allowed to hunt. Each hunter would be tied to a registered location.