Annual Bluff Point deer cull nears end

Groton - The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has nearly completed its annual cull of the deer at Bluff Point State Park, a thinning of the herd that has taken place there annually since 1996.

Howard Kilpatrick, DEEP wildlife biologist, said Tuesday that 17 deer were shot and killed by DEEP staff last week, one shy of the target number. The culling takes place at night when the park is closed to visitors and is necessary to keep the numbers in line with the ability of the coastline and forest habitat there to support them, he said.

"We're trying to get back to 25 deer on Bluff Point," Kilpatrick said.

Since 2003, he said, DEEP has used corn to bait the deer as a way of making the culling more efficient.

"It's not a hunt," he said. "It's a deer-removal program."

With too many deer on the 800-acre park, he said, not only is the habitat destroyed, but the deer become unhealthy because there is not enough food to support them.

DEEP staff plan to return in the coming weeks to cull one more deer, he said. The deer taken in the cull are given to the Hunters for the Hungry Program, which has volunteers butcher the carcasses for donation to soup kitchens.

Throughout the state, he said, the deer population has been particularly stressed by a poor fall crop of acorns, one of their main foods, and the deep snow this winter.

"A lot of them have moved into residential areas looking for food," he said.

That has made deer more frequently seen in residential areas both alive and dead along snowy roadsides this winter, he said. Overall, though, the deer population is declining, "approaching where we want it to be," he said.

In 2000, there were 18,000 deer-vehicle accidents. Due to expanded hunting opportunities, the population has been reduced and there are now about 7,000 to 8,000 deer-vehicle accidents per year, Kilpatrick said.

In Groton this winter, there were 11 deer-vehicle accidents between Dec. 1 and Tuesday, about 5 percent of the total number of accidents, according to police Sgt. Doug Hoffman.

j.benson@theday.com

Twitter: @BensonJudy

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