Web service aims to connect hunters and landowners

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Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- An online tool from the state Fish and Wildlife Department seeks to solve two growing concerns regarding the deer herd: hunters complaining of nowhere to hunt and landowners with too many deer on their property.

Wildlife Biologist Scott Darling said both hunters and landowners can find each other through the department's website, www.vtfishandwildlife.com. "Some have referred to it as a kind of dating service," Darling said.

Visitors to the site can find the link to the service in a column on the right hand side of the screen. Beneath "items of special interest" is a link "get connected" which contains instructions on how to register one's contact information. Darling said a person supplies his or her contact information, which can be found by a hunter or landowner seeking either.

"It's up to the landowners and hunters to follow through," Darling said.

The service was born from discussions held by a advisory group last year that was formed by the legislature. Darling said landowners, hunters, wildlife officials, and biologists were involved and were tasked with coming up with solutions to problems with deer over-grazing.

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According to Darling, overfeeding by deer takes a toll on the overall health of forests by limiting new growth. This in turn causes problems for other animals such as songbirds who depend on such growth for nesting. It also affects snowshoe hare, woodcock, and ruffled grouse.

He said about 15 years ago landowners in the Brattleboro area were reporting problems with deer feeding. He said it has since become a problem in pockets around the state and it typically associated with areas with a high amount of posted land or land that is for some reason not hunted on often. Darling said the state's primary method of controlling deer populations is through the hunting of antlerless deer. He said during hunting seasons deer seek out these posted and less-accessed areas which further compounds the over-feeding problem.

He said foresters have reported deer damage to young trees in Southern Vermont, particularly to the seedlings and saplings of red oak, white ash, and sugar maples.

Archery deer season began this weekend. Deer hunting in one form or another is in season into the first week of December. Darling said unless land is posted or otherwise restricted hunters are permitted to access it for that purpose but they are strongly encouraged to seek the landowner's permission in any case. The exception is the Youth Hunting Weekend, which requires landowner permission regardless of the land's posted status.

Darling said hunters have also raised concerns about the amount of posted land in Vermont.

Something similar to this has been done in other states, Darling said, and what happened in many of them is more hunters than landowners sighed up. He said the department would like to get the word about the service to as many landowners as possible perhaps through county foresters who deal regularly with those who own forested land.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr


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