HARPERS FERRY – Harpers Ferry is on the verge of codifying into law a set of regulations that would allow for a regulated, supervised urban bow hunt in an effort to control an exploding deer population in the town and surrounding areas.
[cleeng_content id="455756835" description="Read it now!" price="0.15"]Having already passed its first reading at this month’s town council meeting in a 4-1 vote, the measure seems nearly assured to become law at the Aug. 13 meeting.
“I support it,” said Mayor Joe Anderson. “We have a very large white-tailed deer population, and it is visibly evident in the town.”
The bill takes aim at the town’s overgrown deer population, which has had many detrimental effects, according to master naturalist Laura Clark, who prepared a deer management plan for the town. These include damage to residents’ yards and the surrounding forest, automobile accidents and the spread of Lyme disease.
An urban harvesting program, Clark said, is the only effective means of controlling the population.
“The population will increase exponentially unless we reduce the number of does,” she said.
Clark’s report indicates that the deer population density in Harpers Ferry is much higher than levels considered healthy. A healthy population, the report states, is anywhere between 15 and 35 deer per square mile. The National Park Service estimates the deer population in the Bolivar/Elk’s Run area to be around 80 deer per square mile.
Many of the harms listed in Clark’s report come as the result of a survey of Harpers Ferry residents. She notes, however, that the small sample size and voluntary nature of the questionnaire prevent interpreting the results as scientifically reliable data.
Respondents reported regularly seeing between five and 11 deer in their yards, depending on what part of town they lived in. Clark notes that more and more yards and gardens are being fenced to keep the deer out.
Many of those answering the survey also reported nearly hitting deer while driving in town. One report of an actual collision resulted in $4,000 of damage to an automobile.
Clark also points out that 33 percent of households that responded to a survey said someone in their home had contracted Lyme disease. She notes that the local health department does not keep statistics on Lyme disease, and that it is impossible to tell where Harpers Ferry residents have contracted the disease.
The area where hunting will be allowed is on the northern edge of the town near the Potomac River.
The hunt will only allow does to be taken by bow from elevated tree stands. Participating hunters must have a West Virginia hunting license, have taken a certified bow hunting education course, take an archery proficiency test and attend a meeting that details the special rules of the urban hunt. Only residents or those they designate to hunt for them will be allowed to participate. No hunting is allowed inside Harpers Ferry National Park.
The hunt will have very strict limits on who can participate, where hunting can take place and what methods can be used to harvest deer. There will also be a training and certification program for anyone interested in participating.
Residents interested in taking part in the program should contact the chief of the Harpers Ferry Police Department for more information.[/cleeng_content]