The following is a press release from the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

State Officials Approve 2016 Deer Management Plan for Blue Hills State Reservation

BOSTON – Thursday, October 6, 2016 – Today, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), in consultation with the Department of Fish and Game (DFG), the Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP), and the Massachusetts State Police, has approved the 2016 Deer Management Plan for the Blue Hills State Reservation. The 2016 deer hunt, which will take place over the course of four days, is a continuation of a multi-year management plan that was first implemented in 2015.

Under legislative mandate, the DCR is required to implement a management plan where deer overpopulation is negatively impacting forests, water resources, or plant growth on department owned land. The Blue Hills Deer Management Program utilizes a controlled hunt as part of DCR’s efforts to manage the high deer densities within the state reservation. Benefits resulting in the management of the deer herd within the Blue Hills State Reservation include:

  • The promotion of tree and plant regeneration, including rare plants;
  • The sustainability of species diversity; and,
  • The diminished risk of forest wildfires due to the growth of plant life.

“The negative impacts of too many deer within the Blue Hills State Reservation remains of the utmost concern to the Department of Conservation and Recreation,” said DCR Commissioner Leo Roy. “It is important that we enable the forest and plant species to not only regenerate, but to thrive. In doing so, the forest will be able to continue to support all kinds of wildlife, and will remain an excellent place where people far and wide will be able to enjoy and observe nature within the heart of an urban setting.”

Last year, the DCR safely and successfully conducted the first-ever controlled deer hunt within the Blue Hills State Reservation during the shotgun season. 2015’s Blue Hills Deer Hunt had 85 hunters participate in day one of the hunt, 66 hunters on day two, 70 hunters on day three, and 57 hunters on day four. The four day hunt resulted in 64 total deer removed from the state reservation, or approximately 14 deer per square mile of forest from the hunted area, which is more than twice the harvest density taken in the surrounding region over 65 days of hunting.

“Hunting is an effective wildlife management tool and we support DCR’s efforts to reduce the deer population in the Blue Hills region to benefit the many other types of wildlife that live in this important wildlife habitat area,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner George Peterson. “We are happy to lend MassWildlife’s technical expertise to the administration of the controlled hunt in the Blue Hills Reservation.”

The 2016 controlled deer hunt will take place during the state’s shotgun season and will feature a total of four days of hunting on November 29, 2016, November 30, 2016, December 6, 2016, and December 7, 2016. Check-in for permitted hunters will begin at 4:30AM, and in accordance with state hunting regulations, hunting will be allowed between one-half hour before sunrise and one-half hour after sunset.

Similar to last year’s controlled hunt, only licensed shotgun hunters selected through a random lottery will participate in the controlled hunt. Interested hunters are required to complete and submit an application. Permitted hunters will then be selected from the applicant pool utilizing a random lottery. Licensed hunters who are interested in applying for an opportunity to participate in the Blue Hills Reservation controlled deer hunt can apply directly online or by downloading and submitting a paper application. New this year, hunters may apply to the hunt in pairs. Visit the Blue Hills Reservation Deer Management Program webpage to review application instructions and submit an application. Selected hunters will then be required to attend a mandatory hunter orientation session to review the guidelines of the deer hunt.

“Unfortunately, the high deer population is destroying habitat for birds and other animals,” said Judy Jacobs, Executive Director of the Friends of the Blue Hills. “The deer population needs to be brought down to a healthy level through a controlled hunt for the health of the forest, its inhabitants and visitors.”

In addition, the limited use of archery hunting will be piloted in certain designated areas of the Blue Hills State Reservation. Of the more than 7,000 acres that comprise the Blue Hills, 3,495 acres will be opened to shotgun hunting, while 226 acres will be opened to archery hunting. A maximum total of 132 hunters (117 shotgun hunters and 15 archery hunters) will be permitted to participate during each day of the hunt.

“Controlled hunts are an important tool for managing deer populations and are typically the only practical option in urban and heavily developed areas,” said Russell Hopping, Ecology Program Director for the Trustees of Reservations. “Without hunting, deer populations can increase and often result in degradation of habitats, loss of tree regeneration, reduction in ground cover for other wildlife, such as ground nesting birds, and the elimination of wildflowers and rare species.”

The use of licensed hunters in managing deer populations is one of the most widely used management methods employed throughout the United States and is the primary management tool supported by DFG throughout the Commonwealth. In addition, DCR manages thousands of acres of forest and parkland across the Commonwealth where licensed hunters are allowed to hunt a variety of game during the legal hunting seasons. The majority of DCR managed land statewide is open to hunting.

The four days of the controlled hunt will include on-the-ground staffing resources from DCR, DFG, the Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP), and the Massachusetts State Police (MSP). A unified command center will be established and staff from each agency will be working together to implement and oversee the controlled hunt, in coordination with local law enforcement.

“Like last year, the Massachusetts Environmental Police will provide officers to ensure a safe, well-run hunt for both hunters and the general public,” said Massachusetts Environmental Police Colonel James McGinn. “We are committed to working with DCR and our law enforcement partners to coordinate a unified command and respond to any hunting law issues that may arise on the scheduled controlled hunt dates.”

After developing and issuing a draft 2016 plan that included several modifications to last year’s management plan, DCR hosted two separate public meetings in the communities of Canton and Milton, where public input was solicited. DCR also provided an additional six-week public comment period to afford the public an opportunity to submit written comment on the draft plan. Following the public input process, DCR modified the draft plan by reducing the number of hunting days from six to four days and removed the archery hunting area in the Ponkapoag Zone.

While public access will not be restricted during the deer management hunt, there are several areas within the Blue Hills State Reservation that will not be opened to hunting in 2016. Those areas include the southwestern half of the Great Blue Hill section (south of Wolcott Path), and the southwestern areas of the Ponkapoag section (including Ponkapoag Golf Course).