A plan to allow hunting on state land within sight of downtown Boston is coming under fire from activists who insist that more humane methods could be used to reduce local deer population.
Massachusetts state wildlife biologists said an upcoming hunt in Blue Hills Reservation is needed to reduce an unsustainably large deer population, according to the New York Times.
Hnting has not been allowed in the park, popular with hikers, mountain bikers and cross-country skiers, since the state set it aside for public recreational use in 1893.
The plan to allow 98 hunters, armed only with shotguns, in the reservation for a series of hunting sessions from Nov. 30 to Dec. 8, has the goal of trimming the deer population to fewer than 20 deer per square mile, the Times reported, adding that hunters will be allowed to take up to six deer.
But animal welfare groups say the state did not properly consider nonlethal methods to control the deer population, the Times added.
“Contraception is a humane, long-lasting approach to population control, and we believe this approach should be prioritized,” said Laura Hagen, the deputy director of advocacy at the Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston, in the Times report.
Rob Morrissey of Braintree, who hikes in the reservation every day, underscored those sentiments in a related Guardian article. “A lot of people don’t like to see the animals killed,” he said. “Four hundred sets of deer guts in the woods? Families don’t want to see that.”
Allen Rutberg, the director of the Center for Animals and Public Policy at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, said deer contraception programs in other areas of the country had worked, the Times reported, adding that Rutberg acknowledges that contraception is labor intensive and expensive.
“You have to be able to reach enough animals to treat them,” he was quoted by the Times.
Contraception and sterilization were considered by the state, but the science behind those methods is still developing, and they were determined to be too expensive, Matthew Sisk, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), said in the Guardian report.
“A hunt is a very effective, low-cost way of culling a herd,” the Guardian quoted Sisk.