For as long as state wildlife biologists can recall, Marsh Island has been a deer sanctuary. But that distinction may change this week when a state advisory council votes on expanding the regional archery hunt to the island.

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Advisory Council will vote Thursday on whether to allow the Bangor expanded archery hunt to extend into Marsh Island, home of the University of Maine.

The current bowhunt includes Bangor, Brewer, Veazie, Orono and Old Town, and runs from Sept. 10 to Dec. 10. The expanded section would not include university land.

For the past three years an experimental bowhunt has been held on the island to thin the deer herd, which has become a social nuisance, said state wildlife biologist Mark Caron.

While only a limited number of deer have been taken in the special hunt by professional bowhunters — 40 deer over three weeks in 2010 — state biologists believe that an ongoing fall hunt that was open to the public would allow a steady number of deer to be removed each year and help to keep the deer population in check.

Public feedback on the current proposed expanded hunt has been minimal, according to Orono officials and council members in Old Town.

Concerns that arose in both towns have been addressed with restrictions on the proposed area, and an ordinance in Old Town that is being considered.

However, Caron with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said his office in Enfield has been so inundated over the years with complaints about deer on the island eating shrubs, vegetable gardens and flowers that a solution was needed.

“It’s a social issue. We get so many complaints from landowners who say they can’t grow their gardens, that there are deer in their yards all the time. And the car accidents is a safety issue. These towns have been coming to IFW off and on since the early ’90s to ask for help,” Caron said. “Three months of a sustained effort every year will make a difference over time.”

Marsh Island sits between Old Town and Orono. And the state’s expanded archery hunt already is held in both towns outside the island, on the other sides of the Stillwater and Penobscot rivers.

It would mark the first time since at least 1947 that a hunt was held on the island. That year Marsh Island was listed as a game preserve by the state, according to former IFW deer biologist Gerry Lavigne.

Then in 1965, Marsh Island was designated a Wildlife Management Area and deer hunting was forbidden, although trapping was still allowed.

Orono town manager Sophie Wilson said many at the University of Maine were concerned with holding the hunt on the campus, so the university grounds are excluded from the hunt.

A June 27 letter from the Orono town council to the department asked that it not add a bowhunt that “creates greater requirements on the University of Maine to mark, regulate, or patrol its land for hunters.” But the letter also echoed the need to reduce the deer population on Marsh Island.

“The town spent quite a bit of time considering this issue, and ultimately was very supportive of the idea of expanding the hunt to reduce the deer population,” Wilson said.

And in Old Town, town councilman David Fiacco said some residents in the town center were concerned about having a bowhunt taking place near their property.

So Fiacco said the town council there is crafting an ordinance to address those concerns with a provision that would require hunters to get not only written consent from the landowner as state law requires, but also to give written notice to the abutting landowners.

“Some council members had concern that someone sitting in their backyard will see a deer that gets shot coming through their land, and they’ll have an injured deer. But the concern from the public is just from a few, a very few,” Fiacco said. “Generally I think everyone is OK and wants to make sure that the safety consideration does not overshadow the big picture.”

If the Advisory Council approves the new expanded archery zone in the Bangor area, the bowhunt would begin Sept. 10 on Marsh Island.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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