Last year’s controversial Blue Hills Reservation deer hunt is set to return this year — this time with bows and arrows.
Archers are expected to join hunters wielding shotguns over six days in November and December to cull deer from the 7,000-acre reservation, where wildlife officials say vegetation is being decimated by a deer population more than four times the target size. The planned hunt is longer than last year’s, which spanned four days, and will cover 3,835 acres instead of 2,980. A lottery will be used to select 420 hunters, more than twice as many as last year.
The 2015 hunt, the first since the land came under state protection in 1893, angered animal rights advocates who said the deer population could be better reduced through other methods, including birth control or relocation. But the state said those methods were too expensive or inefficient.
Animal rights advocates are newly enraged this year by the bow and arrow allowance, which they say is cruel and inefficient, often crippling animals rather than killing them.
“Bow hunting does not offer a humane solution — for people or animals,” Laura Hagen, deputy director of advocacy for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, wrote in a statement. “Bow hunting not only results in deer being wounded but not killed, but also means that passersby . . . simply trying to recreate outdoors are subject to the trauma of seeing a mortally wounded deer.”
But state officials and conservationists are adamant that last year’s hunt was not adequate and that expanded population control efforts are necessary. The state’s 2015 deer management plan called for controlled hunts through 2024 and beyond.
Marion Larson, chief of information and education for the state’s Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, defended archery as a population control method.
“In some parts of the reservation, if a shotgun blast goes off, people could be more concerned, whereas if you’re using archery equipment you don’t hear anything,” she said.
Archery will be permitted only in designated areas of the park, and hunters will be able to use either bows and arrows or shotguns, not both.
Jack Clarke, director of public policy and government relations at Mass Audubon, said overgrazing has created “wounds in the forest habitat” by endangering native plant species and allowing invasive ones to move in.
“Their plan last year won’t get them close to what Mass Audubon considers a sustainable level of protecting the diversity of the Blue Hills, so they need to increase it,” he said.
But some neighbors insist the damage to vegetation is not solely the deer’s fault.
“The Blue Hills is a heavily used urban park, and its vegetation is impacted by many factors such as pollution, development . . . [and] global warming,” said Steve Rayshick, a founding member of Friends of the Blue Hills Deer.
The state will host two public hearings about last year’s results and this year’s plan, on July 12 and Aug. 2.
A 2013 report by the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife found more than 85 deer per square mile in the Blue Hills — a figure far exceeding the state’s target of six to 20 deer per square mile.
Report author and deer biologist David Stainbrook said officials have not reevaluated deer density since then but will likely do so next spring. Last year’s hunt alone would not have been enough to produce a measurable reduction, he said.
Vivian Wang can be reached at email@example.com.