MOUNT DESERT – The deer who live on Mount Desert Island don’t seem to be going away, and for some local officials the issue of whether there are too many of them doesn’t seem to be either.
Mount Desert has been looking into the possibility of allowing hunting within its borders for more than a year. Deer hunting on Mount Desert Island, where Acadia National Park is located, has been banned for at least several decades, according to some local officials.
As a result, the island deer population has risen and has increased the chances of car-deer accidents, the threat of Lyme disease, and the difficulty of successfully growing vegetables in an outdoor garden.
“Some people don’t mind having a deer under every bush or whacking them with cars,” Mount Desert Selectman Patrick Smallidge said Monday. “I think it’s a no-brainer.”
Residents will have the chance to weigh in on the issue at the polls on Nov. 7, according to Mount Desert Town Manager Michael MacDonald.
They will be asked, in a nonbinding referendum, whether they favor pursuing some sort of plan and whether they think the issue can be addressed through a recreational, state-regulated deer hunt, he said.
“People have complained the deer are eating all their ornamental shrubs,” MacDonald said, adding that his car had $4,000 in damage when he ran into one last summer on Eagle Lake Road in neighboring Bar Harbor. “There have been quite a few [deer hit by cars].”
The issue of deer has come up in recent years in other nearby island towns that are accessible only by boat. Cranberry Isles, Frenchboro and Swans Island, after several decades of banned hunting, all have reintroduced deer hunts this decade as a way to reduce the number of deer crowding their communities.
Smallidge said the issue in Mount Desert is not as bad as it was on the outer islands, where deer were so hungry they were known to walk onto porches to raid garbage pails.
But Mount Desert does not want to wait for the problem to get worse, he said.
“That point has not been reached here, but sooner or later it will,” Smallidge said.
MacDonald said there will be another nonbinding referendum question Nov. 7 on the local ballot about changing the town’s fiscal year. Currently it coincides with the calendar year, he said, but voters will be asked if they think it should be changed so it runs from July 1 to June 30.
Changing the town’s fiscal calendar would make it coincide with the school year and with the local education budget process, he said, but it also may shift more of the town’s budgetary work to the spring, when many municipal departments are busy getting ready for the annual influx of seasonal residents.
Public hearings on both referendum issues are scheduled for Oct. 16 at the Mount Desert Town Office in Northeast Harbor. The hearings will be part of the selectmen’s next regular meeting, MacDonald said.