Hunters Anglers Trappers Association of Vermont






















 

 

SCIENCE INTEREST GROUP
 

  •          WHITETAIL MANAGEMENT
     

    May 6, 2004

    Written testimony relative to Nuisance Deer Management Bill – Vermont House of Representatives Fish & Wildlife Committee by Ed Gallo, Vice President, Hunters Anglers Trappers Association of Vermont

    Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Thank you for having me present testimony on this important matter. The existing statute that covers a landowner’s right to destroy whitetail deer that are damaging his crops or property is long overdue for updating. I believe the basic premise of the law that a landowner has a right to protect his property from damage is justifiable and necessary. The basic premise is sound, however, it needs to be updated.

    The recent events in the Town of Stannard clearly demonstrate how important it is to update the law. The background situation concerns a landowner whose Christmas tree farm operation has been experiencing significant tree damage from browsing deer. While there are a number of deer damage mitigation options available to this landowner, his choice was to attempt to eliminate as many deer as possible. His attempts to kill off the deer in the region began in 2002 when he killed 15 deer. In 2003, he killed 14 deer and this year, the kill was 19 for a three-year total of 48 deer – most of which were pregnant does. This was all legal under current law. Exacerbating the problem are well-meaning neighbors who are feeding the deer and drawing them into the problem area.

    There are a few important issues that must be addressed here:

    The landowner’s attempt to protect his trees by killing all the deer in the area is a futile solution doomed to failure. The reason for this is location and deer winter habitat. The tree farm is adjacent to (and actually part of) a significantly large deer wintering yard. Deer from all over the region are programmed to instinctively travel to this area in early winter to survive the severe winter months – they have no choice and can do nothing else. This means the landowner is dealing with deer from a large region that concentrate in and around his property for a portion of the year – every year. He is not just dealing with a few local farm deer.

    The neighbors feeding the deer are literally drawing the deer into the problem area. Without this artificial food supply, the deer would be concentrated in the deer yard, but dispersed throughout it. The feeding is causing the already elevated deer density to become even more concentrated in the problem area. The landowner must kill even more deer to prosecute his solution and the well-meaning neighbors continue to draw them in to the gun.

    The deer population in the entire region has been severely impacted. Deer densities are down significantly in surrounding towns and Steam Mill Brook WMA, the second largest WMA in Vermont, has seen a severe decline. The deer in this area are extremely valuable to the local economy – F&W reports deer hunting brings in $21,000,000 net annually into Vermont. The region has been an important destination for deer hunters for many years – I have hunted this area myself for over 35 years and I have never seen deer populations this low. I personally had a friend from Indiana hunt out of my camp this past season. He spent money on food, gas, supplies and entertainment but he will not be back anytime soon. I have heard many similar stories over the past six months I have spent looking into this problem. The point here is, the deer are a natural resource for Vermont and should be recognized as such.

    This one landowner has impacted a natural resource, important to many other citizens in the region. I am not a wildlife biologist but I have put some projections together relative to this particular situation. I am certain this evaluation is very conservative but it clearly illustrates my point.

    Year of Kill

    Total Number Killed

    Approx. No. of Does Killed (assume 80%)

    % Pregnant with one fawn (assume 60%)

    % Pregnant with Twins (assume 40%)

    Total Deer Affected in Year of Kill

    Area Affected (assumes 5 deer/sq.mi. carrying capacity of land)

    2002

    15

    12

    7.2

    4.8

    31.8

    6.36

    2003

    14

    11.2

    6.72

    4.48

    29.68

    5.936

    2004

    19

    15.2

    9.12

    6.08

    40.28

    8.056

    Total Deer Killed/affected over Three Year Period………………………..………

    101.76

    20.352

    The key issue here is to determine a solution to these issues that is fair to landowners throughout Vermont but also protects an important natural resource, Vermont’s deer herd. I support the following revisions be made to the current laws:

    No landowner should be permitted to kill deer without a prior review by F&W Department. This review will include verification by the department that the landowner has taken reasonable steps to mitigate the problem prior to allowing the option to kill the deer.

    No landowner shall be permitted to kill more than four deer annually to protect property. The F&W Dept. reports that no other landowner in Vermont has requested to kill more than four deer to mitigate damage for over ten years. This limit should have no substantial impact on landowner’s rights.

    The F&W Dept. should have the option of issuing a “cease and desist” order to any adjacent or nearby neighbors who are feeding deer and causing a problem for another landowner. The order should be backed up by monetary penalties if the order is ignored. This will significantly help to alleviate problems for landowners.

    Thank you for listening to my testimony on this matter. I hope you can help properly address this issue and update this statute to fairly address this situation for all affected parties.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Ed Gallo

    Stannard Deer Update _ 3/24/04

    To date, Claude Fontaine’s 2004 deer kill is at 19 bringing his 3-year total deer kill to 48. This is the official count the F&W dept. tallies and NOT the total count the local townspeople and neighbors would say he has killed. We have to deal in facts we can back up and that means we use the 48 number.

    I did a calculation on the total affect to the deer herd he has had already. Pls. refer to the chart to see the real impact of Fontaine’s actions to the local deer herd. Deer hunting brings in a tremendous amount of money into Vermont each year. According to the F&W dept., in 2001, deer hunting accounted for net revenues of about $25 million dollars to Vermont. So, even if we look at this on a pure financial basis, this one person is having a huge financial impact on the town of Stannard and the surrounding towns as well – towns that very much depend on these kinds of revenues for their local economies. I am no biologist so I admit these numbers may be off a bit but I am certain the magnitudes are in the right ballpark.

    Year of Kill Total Number Killed Approx. No. of Does Killed (assume 80%) % Pregnant with one fawn (assume 60%) % Pregnant with Twins (assume 40%) Total Deer Affected Area Affected (assumes 5 deer/sq.mi. carrying capacity of land)

    2002

    15

    12

    7.2

    4.8

    31.8

    6.36

    2003

    14

    11.2

    6.72

    4.48

    29.68

    5.936

    2004

    19

    15.2

    9.12

    6.08

    40.28

    8.056

    Total Deer Killed/affected over Three Year Period………………………………..

    101.76

    20.352

    Anson Tebbitts of Channel 3 News did an excellent story on the situation last Friday, March 19. A transcript of the story is available on the www.hatvt.org website in the “HAT Talk” section. We met Friday at the Stannard Town Offices and actually held an impromptu “Town Meeting” (thanks to Evelyn Rich) which Mr. Tebbitts taped and used for the story. There was much discussion about the killing Fontaine is doing and 100% agreement that it was wrong and immoral. Fred Salo was at the meeting (Mr. Salo is another Christmas tree farmer in Stannard). Mr. Salo pointed out that he disagreed with Claude’s methods but understood his frustration that deer were causing him damage and costing him money. Mr. Salo’s point was that the state and feds should muster money for them to build fences to protect their trees and avoid killing the deer. Mr. Salo stated that he used to kill deer but stopped it sometime back. Mr. Fontaine elected not to attend the meeting.

    A number of townspeople took exception to the thought that the government (ie: taxpayers) should buy a tree farmer a fence who chose to build a tree farm in a deer yard and that the farmer should be responsible for his own choices. In any event, I pointed out to Mr. Salo that he had the Farm Bureau and other trade organizations, which also have lobbyists in Montpelier who could fight for his cause to get money but that the sportsmen simply wanted the slaughter stopped as it really was not a solution to the issue anyway.

    Rep. Dave Brown (Hardwick) attended the meeting also and stated that he had spoken to Mr. Fontaine who informed him that even if a fence was paid for by the state or whoever, he would not allow it on his land and he would continue to kill the deer as his preferred solution.

    I made the statement that we had a new Commissioner of F&W, Wayne Laroche who is committed to helping solve this problem and we have the staunch support of Rep. Brown to help us as well. Dave has offered legislation that will greatly relieve the problem and it is working its way through Montpelier now. We anticipate resistance to this legislation and expect support from each and every one of you folks on copy to help push it through. This is where the battle will be won or lost. We need this legislation passed so F&W can put a stop to this slaughter and it is going to win or lose based on the support of the public to make it happen.

    I am expecting a public hearing on the issue in the legislature within the next few weeks. Rep. Brown and HAT’s lobbyist, Steve McLeod will keep me posted on the timing of this hearing. Typically, any member of the public is permitted to testify at these hearings. You simply sign up on a sheet of paper in the lobby and speak when your name is called. Typically, you get 2 minutes to make your statement. It is imperative that we get as many people as possible there to testify on this matter. Rep. Brown cannot do this without our help and we have to rally to get this through. There will be opposition to this so we have to make the legislators understand that they will be held accountable if they fail to protect Vermont’s precious resources.

    Thanks and stay tuned,

    Ed Gallo

    434-4714

    Richmond, Vt.

    Whitetail Deer Management

    Management of whitetail deer is perhaps the most controversial and most important wildlife management issue in the state of Vermont. It involves a complexity of both scientific and social issues. HAT will:

    * organize and maintain an interest group for investigation and discussion of the full range of whitetail management issues

    * provide a stream of information and education materials to group members

    * keep group members abreast of impending legislation and other political issues

    * establish and maintain a committee selected by the Chairman from group members to develop and maintain positions on management issues to recommend to the the Board of Directors

    * pro-actively advocate and lobby for sound, science based whitetail management within the state of Vermont

    * work with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and other regulatory bodies to insure that sound, science based whitetail management is implemented

    Activities:

    We anticipate sponsoring deer management seminars and forums for discussion.

    We plan to organize field trips to introduce, demonstrate, and investigate habitat conditions and management techniques.

    We will encourage, support, and participate in research activities aimed at furthering

    whitetail deer and deer habitat management.

     

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