Bristol bow hunting for deer approved on four Town properties

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 4/27/23

The Town Council approved four town-owned properties to be opened to bow hunting for deer between Sept. 15, and Jan. 31. Hunters with the required licenses, tags and training will be allowed to hunt starting this September.

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Bristol bow hunting for deer approved on four Town properties


Dylan Ferreira of the Department of Environmental Management was back before the Town Council last Wednesday, April 19, pressing the State’s case to permit bow hunting on designated Town properties.

Of all the towns in Rhode Island, Bristol has one of the highest numbers of negative deer interactions, from motor vehicle collisions to rates of Lyme disease.

“I deal with a lot of constituents that call complaining about the deer issues here in Bristol, whether it be vehicle, collisions, or ticks,” said Ferreira. “The way the deer population is managed in town is through legal regulated hunting on private property…You need written permission to hunt on private property or any property. So, in order to increase the harvest, to reduce the negative impacts associated with high deer populations, we wanted to open some of the town properties via a memorandum of understanding which would allow legal license hunters in Rhode Island to hunt those properties.”

As this was not Ferreira’s first appearance before the Council, members only had a few follow up questions, mainly about notification to abutters, access to town-owned public hunting areas and parking concerns. Ferreira indicated that the DEM will work with the town to push out information to residents and potential hunters.

Councilors Aaron Ley and Tim Sweeney expressed concern about enforcement, to which Ferreira replied that there are no plans to enforce these areas any differently than other state-managed hunting areas. Hunters purchase licenses and deer tags, hunt within the designated season (Sept. 15 to Jan. 31), from a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sundown. The DEM’s law enforcement division is tasked with making sure that these and all hunting regulations are followed, but there is no requirement to check in with local police as part of the drafted memorandum of understanding, nor is that requirement in place anywhere else.

“Some of those are in urban areas like Narragansett…and some of those are small parcels that are in neighborhoods, and we don't require them to notify the police,” said Ferreira.

“It’s no different than the waterfowl hunting season,” said Maj. Brian Burke of the Bristol Police Department. “Sometimes we get complaints from abutting property owners and we go down and investigate, and call DEM to follow up with it. We could do the same with this.”

Town Administrator Steven Contente noted that his office has conducted several site visits at the four locations identified in the memorandum, and saw deer, and evidence of deer, all over the place. They have determined points of entry and parking for hunters. “I’ve talked with Chief Lynch about the areas,” he said. “We're comfortable with this for four locations: 100 acre woods, which is north of Tupelo; a Gooding Avenue property, Skaters Pond, behind Seasons Market at Gooding Avenue and Metacom; behind the landfill, which would be accessed through a small parcel of town property on Tower Street; and the fourth site is Hopeworth Avenue, the north side of Hopeworth behind the Veterans Home.”

Ferreira noted that with its tagging system, the state carefully monitors how many deer are harvested. “We’re not trying to completely remove all deer from Bristol. We need to control the population.”

Local resident and deer hunter Bob DaPonte spoke, expressing his concerns that it could be a “madhouse” when bow hunters catch wind of Bristol opening these locations this season. His suggestion: keep it for residents only.

“I think then what you would miss is all the resources that Rhode Island DEM brings to this to assist us,” said Councilor Mary Parella. “It's like anything else when you adopt an ordinance, if it needs tweaking, if for some reason, all of a sudden we become inundated with people from all over the state — I don't see that happening with archery — but if it does, there's nothing that says we can't go back and modify.”

Katherine Quinn, President of the Poppasquash neighborhood association spoke in favor of the Town defining the policy and keeping the public well-informed, noting the many problems they have had with the deer population and poachers on the Poppasquash peninsula. “The police and DEM have been very helpful, but I think it's really good to have clear information of what what what is allowed, what's not allowed, and and who to go to if there's a problem.”

Referencing Mr. DaPonte, Contente said, “I’ve been talking with him, and he has legitimate concerns. But quite frankly, we need to lean on the experts at DEM to help us through something new. And, as you said, if things are not going well, or are that disruptive, we can certainly come back. But I think we have to go forward.

“The other thing that surprised me was fish and wildlife provided data on how many legal deer we're taking from Bristol through private property hunting, and it's not a lot. It’s certainly not going to be enough to make an impact and reduce the herd at all. I have a lot of respect for him [DaPonte] and his his advocacy for nature and wildlife. But I, as administrator, need help from the DEM and I think I have to heed their advice right now to get this off the ground and started, and we need them as a partner right now.”

The memorandum of understand was unanimously approved by the Council in a 4-0 vote, with Chairman Nathan Calouro absent.

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