The Department of Natural Resources plans to issue 200 special deer permits in the Kennebecasis Valley this fall, allowing the hunters to each kill one doe.

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People in the Kennebecasis Valley have long complained about deer damaging gardens and colliding with vehicles. (Courtesy of the KV Regional Deer Committee)

It's part of the province's proposed Nuisance Deer Management Assistance Program, aimed at reducing the size of the herd in the three towns — Rothesay, Quispamsis and Hampton.

As it stands, the deer population in the valley is about 10 per square kilometre, said Joe Kennedy, the provincial deer biologist.

By comparison, the average in wooded parts of southern New Brunswick is about one deer per square kilometre, he said.

Hunters are normally allowed to kill only one deer each during the seven-week season, but those issued a special permit would have the opportunity to take a second deer.

Still, Kennedy objects to the program being described as a cull. He says it is merely a redistribution of deer permits and that 200 fewer kills will be allowed elsewhere within hunting zone 23, which stretches from the border of Saint John to Fundy National Park.

Land owners may apply, choose hunters

Under the plan, which must first be approved by the three town councils, property owners will be able to apply for their land to be considered for the special permits and nominate the hunters they want to allow on their property.

Kennedy says each parcel of land will be inspected by DNR staff to determine site conditions and the type of weapon that can be used.

"We are, of course, concerned about the nearby neighbours," he said. "We will discuss it with the property owner. We will define the discharge zones on a case by case basis."

The minimum zone for firearms will remain at 400 metres, but the discharge distance for bows could be lowered to the point where someone with a one-acre lot next to a wooded area may be able to get a permit.

The program is intended to be ongoing.

Long overdue

Hampton Coun. Bob Doucet, who chairs the Kennebecasis Valley Deer Committee, says the majority of people in his town support the move.

"There was a high percentage of people, I think 93 per cent, that did the survey that wanted something to be done," he said. "We've had many calls, I've had many calls."

For Quispamsis gardener Hans Langguth, the program can't start soon enough.

Like many gardeners in the area, he says deer are an ongoing challenge.

"They still stick their heads over and they nip everything they can get," he said.

Langguth believes the special permits "will be a help."

"But they let it go too long," he said. "It should have been done years ago."

Piloted in 2011

A similar permit process was used on two properties in the Kennebecasis Valley area during the fall of 2011.

Peter LeBlanc, who operates a Christmas tree farm in Quispamsis, participated. He put forward the names of 10 hunters who were issued special permits to take one doe each from his land.

"They spoke to us to tell us when they were coming, and when they were leaving. So it worked exceedingly well," said LeBlanc.

All 10 hunters — four using guns, and six with bows — got their deer, he said. And an additional three deer were killed in the regular hunt.

LeBlanc says it made a noticeable difference, but the deer population has since bounced back.

"You can't grow anything without it being eaten, save garlic or other things that they don't like." 

Nova Scotia, Quebec and Maine have used this type of special permit process in high deer population areas for years.