The deer culling scheduled to begin this week on Block Island has been postponed until next year. The sharpshooting company hired to cull the deer recommended to postpone the project.
With no natural predators on the island, the Virginia white tailed deer population has grown out of control.
The deer have damaged the island’s ecosystem and spread Lyme disease.
That’s why the New Shoreham Town Council and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management jointly decided to hire a professional sharpshooting company to reduce the deer population to a more manageable number.
“There was a great desire to work hard and have this culling go forward this year,” said Sparks. “But there are a lot of moving pieces and it didn’t quite come together as we had hoped.”
When the sharpshooting contractor learned his company wouldn’t be allowed to use firearm suppressors, he said his team could move forward without that tool to silently take down deer. But then the deer weren’t taking the bait scattered to lure them to specific areas.
On top of that, the contractor was worried that the regular hunting still happening on Block Island would interfere with his work, according to Catherine Sparks, the DEM’s assistant director of natural resources.
“He just felt that given everything that had been planned and done thus far—his recommendation was not to move forward unless we could be successful and he started to have doubts, as to whether or not it was going to be worth doing this year,” said Sparks.
Sparks said the DEM and the town council are still committed to addressing the island’s deer population, in spite of this year’s setbacks.
“We decided it made the most sense [to heed the contractor’s recommendation], considering the financial resources at hand,” said Sparks. “Sometimes that level of discretion can be very valuable. We’ve moved the ball pretty far down the field this year and learned a lot and did that with the town. It was a very collaborative process.”
Sparks said it’s just a matter of taking a step back and preparing for next year.