Sun | Dec 16, 2018

NEPA gives bird hunters nod to shoot white-tailed deer

Published:Wednesday | August 15, 2018 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
White-tailed deer.

The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) last Friday gave the green light to game bird hunters to legally hunt the white-tailed deer that is wreaking havoc on crops in Portland and elsewhere.

The agency used a forum at the Knutsford Court Hotel, St Andrew, to also enlist the help of hunters in culling this invasive species during the 2018 game bird hunting season from Saturday, August 18 to Sunday, September 23. It also wants their help in gathering data on the animal.

However, Damion Whyte, a member of the Invasive Alien Species Working Group, urged the hunters to be cautious in how they try to help in this national cause. He advised that even if the deer are located in a designated protected area such as game reserves, game sanctuaries or forest reserves, shooting them would attract the maximum fine of $100,000 or a 12-month prison sentence, upon conviction in a Parish Court.

The Wild Life Protection Act forbids "... the use or possession of any dog, gun, catapult or any weapon which could be used to hunt any animals or bird". So while NEPA will not be regulating deer hunting and has given permission, it advises that hunters stay well within the law.

"Currently, there is no law in Jamaica stopping a hunter from hunting the deer. It's not a protected species, it's an invasive. However, what we're trying to tell the hunters is that sometimes the deer go in the protected areas and the current Wild Life Act stops a hunter from going there. You can't trap, you can't go in there with a firearm, so that's a problem that we're having," Whyte told The Gleaner.

He explained that NEPA is looking to address this with a special amendment, as it did in addressing the invasion of Jamaican waters by another invasive species, the lionfish some years ago. Fishing in marine sanctuaries is illegal, but the agency did amend the legislation to facilitate supervised culling of lionfish in the sanctuaries. The lionfish population has been brought under control.

While admitting that the deer population is estimated to be in the thousands, Whyte asked hunters to provide relevant details of their kills.

"We need to know where you see the deer and we know some people have them as pets. If you see that, tell us. If you see it in the wild, if you hunt, where you hunt it, male or female, and we need the dates," he appealed.

Whyte also appealed to hunters to collaborate with farmers who have been affected by the herbivore raiding their domestic crops, especially carrot and pumpkin, to reduce the risks of accidentals.

"We are asking the hunters to do everything to make sure it's safe when they are hunting the deer. We don't want them to shoot a farmer in the bush, but other than that, everything is okay, and currently some of the farmers in the communities have become guides. So it's kinda producing a job for the farmers who act as tour guides and carry the hunters where they can shoot," said Whyte.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com