UPDATED: NEPA seeks help to cull white-tailed deer
"Hunt them!" is advice the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is expected to give to game bird hunters who encounter the white-tailed deer during the 2018 season which gets underway on Saturday, August 18 and runs until Sunday, September 23.
"There are no laws in Jamaica that prohibit the hunting of the white-tailed deer. The purpose of the presentation is to introduce hunters to their existence, as well as to advise that they may encounter the animals while they are hunting the four birds permitted under the under the Wild Life Protection Act (WLPA), 1945," the regulatory agency advised late yesterday.
The agency has refused to say why it plans to engage the services of game bird hunters in culling the growing population of the herbivore which is found in its natural habitat in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America and South America. However, an insider told The Gleaner that the expanding deer population is a growing concern for NEPA, hence the decision to seek the assistance via this channel. The source pointed to the agency's designation of the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) as an invasive species, as an indication of the serious threat it poses.
"An invasive is defined as any species that has been introduced to an environment where it is not native, and has since become a threat through rapidly spreading and increasing in numbers, often to the detriment of native species," NEPA notes on its website.
It further advised that: "The white-tailed deer is being included in the discussions during the National Environment and Planning Agency's series of Hunters Forums in Montego Bay and Kingston on August 8 and 10 respectively, at the request of The Invasive Alien Species Working Group (IASWG). Animals that fall into Invasive Alien Species group include the white-tailed deer and green iguanas.
"White-tailed deer have been known to destroy crops and cause damage to woodland areas. During the forum, hunters will be provided with advice on how to treat with white-tailed deer if they are encountered," NEPA further disclosed.
The presence of the herbivore has been confirmed in St Andrew and Portland where three does and three bucks escaped from Somerset Falls, a tourist attraction during the passage of Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, as confirmed by Shauna-Lee Chai, a former conservation science officer with the Jamaica Conservation & Development Trust.
NOTE: An earlier version of this story had incorrectly stated that August 12 would mark the start of the white-tailed deer season. The correct date is August 18.