MILTON (CBS) — There hasn’t been a deer hunt on the Blue Hills Reservation since 1893.
The first hunt on the reservation in 122 years, approved by the state last month, began Monday morning in an attempt to control a deer population the Department of Conservation and Recreation found in a 2013 study to be far above the sustainable limit.
“The study yielded that there were 85 deer per square mile in the Blue Hills Reservation,” said Matthew Sisk, DCR Deputy Commissioner told WBZ NewsRadio 1030. “A healthy deer herd is considered between seven and fourteen deer per square mile, so you can see that’s well over.”
Sisk said the deer are stripping vegetation, which leaves less food for other animals and creates conditions for forest fires.
“Without that healthy undercanopy, you have a duff layer, which is the layer of foliage that has fallen, which creates a high risk level for forest fires, of which we’ve had two forest fires this year,” said Sisk.
Some animal rights groups say they understand the issues, but oppose the hunt in favor of non-lethal population control options like contraception or sterilization. Sisk has said in the past that a hunt is “a very effective, low-cost way of culling a herd,” and said the other methods were too expensive.
The permitted hunters, chosen by lottery, are allowed to shoot in a 3,000-acre range. That leaves another 4,000 acres of the reservation for hikers–though Sisk said that, if a hiker really wanted to, they could hike in the hunting zones.
“If they still choose to go in, they’ll be told that they are required to stay on the trails,” said Sisk. “They’ll be issued and required to wear an orange hat and vest.”
The hunt is taking place Monday and Tuesday of this week, as well as next. The DCR stressed that this was a controlled hunt to take care of an environmental problem, and not a new, recurring recreational opportunity.