By Linda Finarelli
Upper Dublin commissioners may be willing to pay for a study to determine the number of deer in the township, depending on the methods used. The topic surfaced at the board’s Feb. 11 meeting in light of a discussion of the township’s deer management program, which permits bow hunting, at the board’s Feb. 4 public safety, works & services committee meeting.
Board President Ira Tackel said Tuesday night he “would be amenable” to spending an estimated $5,000 for a study, depending on the methodology. “If the herd size is 100 and we’re at 25 percent” harvested this year, that’s one thing, he said. “If it’s 1,000 … we might as well put the program to bed.”
About 10 township residents sat on one side of the board room at the Feb. 4 committee meeting, while a handful of “approved hunters” sat on the other, to listen to an analysis of the program by the police department, which oversees it.
Now in its fifth year, the program was established “out of concern for the number of deer/human conflicts,” such as cars hitting deer, damage to private property and concern over health factors like Lyme disease, Upper Dublin Patrol Commander Darren Nyce said.
There were 114 deer/vehicle accidents last year, said police Chief Terrence Thompson, noting he still thinks the program is viable and safe.
Under the program, licensed hunters who register with the township and go through a training program are permitted to hunt for deer with crossbows in six designated areas of the township from late September to the end of January. Hunting must be done from a tree stand about 15 feet off the ground, and the first kill must be a doe.
Thirty-eight approved hunters harvested 30 deer this year, including 24 doe, said Officer David Madrak, who wrote the program analysis. Twenty-two were harvested last year.
“I think that number can grow,” Madrak said. “Eventually it will put a dent” in the deer population. “Will it totally reduce the population? Absolutely not.”
Opposition to the deer management program surfaced this year after an arrow was found stuck in a parked car in the driveway of a home in the 1400 block of Crosby Drive, which, according to a police memo, “was most likely placed there by an unknown individual.”
Among safety concerns expressed are: the tree stands, which must be 50 yards from an occupied structure, are too close to property lines, rendering them unnerving for homeowners to view and unsafe; a deer shot in the woods may move onto private property to die; having hunters in the woods makes it unsafe for residents to walk in the woods or for children to play there.
Crosby Drive resident Mel Driban said he spoke with about 50 residents whose homes border the Mondauk Woods and Dublin Chase open space, and “almost without exception, they were opposed to deer hunting” in those areas, which are “too small and too close to homes for hunting with a deadly weapon.” The residents want the commissioners “to find a safe and effective way to cull the deer population,” Driban said. “Permitting strangers with deadly weapons to roam the woods and sit in trees within feet of residents’ yards … is disruptive and dangerous.”
“There is nothing to prevent a child from climbing a tree stand,” Crosby Drive resident Fred Dintino said. “A fall could be catastrophic.”
Barton Drive resident Maureen Michels said some residents are afraid to let their children play in their yards when a hunter is in the woods.
“It’s hard to understand why a walking trail, bike path and dog park are within a permitted hunting area,” she said. “It’s very risky to have all these things going on at the same time. They’re proven capable hunters, but they’re human and humans make mistakes.”
“I don’t believe this program is effective,” Tuckerstown Road resident Dr. Eric Williams said. “Bow hunting has the least success rate.”
“I’m not the stranger in the woods,” countered Fort Washington resident Jeff Bucher, a participant in the deer management program for three years. The hunters are “very sensitive about the neighbors.”
Paul Wiley, a hunter from Willow Grove, said the hunters follow safety rules and “further restrictions would make the program less effective.” He acknowledged ladder stands “are a valid concern with children who want to play,” but said, “parents need to caution children” not to climb them.
Asked by commissioners if hunting could be restricted to certain days or the setbacks from structures increased, Nyce said more restrictions would result in less participation.
“If the goal is to eliminate more deer, it would be counterproductive,” he said.
Saying he “put his faith in” the police chief’s stamp of approval for the program, Commissioner Chett Derr recommended “continuing the program closely monitored,” and suggested the police consider posting hours on the signs, with “certain hours to be considered off-limits.”
Driben said later he felt the commissioners “had made their decision already” not to discontinue the program before the meeting. “We have to regroup,” he said. “We’re not going away.”