WEST NEWBURY — How best to address a growing deer population in town was explored at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Wednesday. The topic sprang from a letter received from Owen Mercer of Dracut asking permission to hunt with a bow on town-owned land known as the Dunn Property, located off Chase Street.
Mercer, who described himself as 5-year Iraq War veteran in the Marines currently studying to be a wildlife or marine biologist, said he was contacted by the Dunn family about a growing deer and wild turkey population in the area. As a close friend of the Dunn family, Mercer said he was offering to thin the herd as a way to resolve the problem and substantially lower the risk of Lyme disease, which is spread by deer ticks.
Mercer planned to use only archery equipment to hunt and to stay 500 feet from any occupied dwelling and 150 feet from the road so as to minimize the risk of an accidental shooting. He stressed that he “understood the importance of safety” and that “no risk is worth taking in the harvest of game.”
“Every shot taken must be thought out carefully to ensure the public’s safety,” he wrote.
While selectmen acknowledged receiving complaints from many residents about the deer population, Dick Cushing pointed out that under state laws, deer management must follow specific guidelines. The board agreed to send a letter to the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife to get more information on deer management protocols.
According to town bylaws, hunting is not permitted on private or public land without written consent from the owner or legal occupant, which in the case of the Dunn property means the Board of Selectmen.
“Such consent shall be carried at all times by any person hunting and must be shown upon request to law enforcement or the property owner,” the bylaw states.