Department of Natural Resources District Biologist Rob Slyvester appeared before the Marlinton Town Council Monday to further discuss the possibility of conducting an urban deer hunt within Marlinton’s town limits.
Pocahontas County has an abundant deer population, and concerns about diseases and inbreeding have been voiced over the years. Urban deer hunts are specialized bow hunts designed to help municipalities manage large populations of deer within their legal boundaries, and the idea was first brought to the council’s attention during Joe Smith’s administration and then again in September 2015.
“In West Virginia, the Division of Natural Resources is charged with the responsibility to manage the wildlife resources in our state,” Slyvester explained. “We have several ways in which we do that, and one of the most familiar ways is with our wildlife – bear, deer, squirrel – hunting seasons.”
However, time has shown the DNR that traditional hunting seasons are not enough to manage wildlife populations in certain areas across the state. Specialty hunts were developed in response to their findings, and several hunts have been conducted in cities and towns throughout West Virginia – including an annual specialty hunt at the Green Bank Observatory.
“The DNR’s responsibility – and what we really get involved with – is we actually develop the season timing,” Slyvester said. “The timing of the hunt itself is left up to the organization that wants to have the hunt – be it the city, the state park, etc.”
Every year, the traditional bow season opens on the last Saturday in September. The regular 2016 bow season will open on September 24 this year, but for those areas who have chosen to conduct urban hunts, hunters have the potential of hunting within the designated limits up to 21 days before the regular season opens.
However, just because there are 21 days allotted for a specialty hunt does not mean that the organization hosting the hunt has to plan the event for that long.
“I don’t mean to be too forward,” Slyvester warned, “but you have to know that this isn’t Rambo walking down the streets of Marlinton with an AK-47 strapped across his back. This is a specialized hunt that can only occur on property hunters have permission to be on – meaning, it has to either occur on city property or private property with permission from the landowner.”
The details of the hunt are up to the discretion of the council and include: areas where the hunt may be conducted; the type and number of deer allowed to be bagged during the hunt – a total of seven via the DNR’s regulations that do not count against the number allowed during the regular season; how many hunters are allowed to hunt during the specialty season; whether a special permit will be required that the hunters purchase beforehand and so on.
Other population-control options – such as trapping and relocating, and monthly contraceptive for does – were suggested, but experience has shown Slyvester and his fellow DNR employees that nothing is quite as effective as the specialty hunts.
Once Slyvester concluded his presentation, council member Norris Long asked the question that was on everyone’s mind: “What about safety? How safe is a hunt like this?”
Slyvester has been involved with multiple specialty hunts – including the hunts at Green Bank, Stonewall Jackson Resort, and Blennerhassett Island – and reported that no one obtained any arrow-induced injuries.
“No one has been mistaken for a deer and shot,” he replied. “Have we had people twist their ankles? Yes. Have we had people fall out of their stand? Yes. The thing that minimizes a lot of that worry – and what we’ve done for most of our hunts – is we suggest that your hunters have a bow safety course, a hunter education course, and elevated stands.”
When hunting from an elevated stand, the arrow goes straight down. Hunters won’t have to worry about shooting at a deer standing across from them, missing, and having the arrow keep going another 20-30 yards. If a hunter misses from an elevated stand, the arrow only has one direction to go – and that’s down.
“A hunt like this won’t rid Marlinton totally of deer,” Slyvester added in closing, “but it will make the deer population a manageable number.”
Long made a motion to proceed with making plans for the hunt within town limits and to host a public hearing once the plans have been completed.
The motion was unanimously approved.
In other business:
- The council moved to annually bill the Pocahontas County Commission a $75 fire fee for each of its four buildings: 911 Center, Courthouse, Jail and ARC, which are located within town limits, as well as an outstanding balance of $335.25 on the ARC building.
- No action was taken regarding the repair and replacement of dumpsters.
- The council voted to disperse $491.40 collected via the dog tax evenly between the Pocahontas County Animal Shelter and Humane Society.
- The naming of a utility inspector was tabled until a later date.
The council approved:
- Region IV Water System Improvement Project’s requested payment for Invoice #12, which was a sum of $25,756.25.
- the annual 2016-2017 USDA budget.
- a lease between the town of Marlinton, Pocahontas County Opera House Landmarks Commission and Southern States, conditional that the LP tank be placed on a cement pad surrounded by a privacy fence. The council authorized Mayor Sam Felton to execute the lease. Felton noted that the selected location of the tank was made with the future location of the stage in mind. The tank is required to be 10 feet from all ignition sources and thus has to be 10 feet from both the Opera House and the upcoming stage.
- the appointment of a committee to research Highmark Blue Cross, PEIA, Aetna Coventry Humana and Cigna as potential insurance agencies to provide coverage for town employees.
- the appointment of Joann Eddy to the Housing Authority for a five-year term, expiring June 30, 2021.
- 2016-2017 Employee Evaluations and Personnel Committee Recommendations, effective immediately.
Marlinton Town Council meets the first Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in council chambers in the municipal building.