Deer hunting debate gets heated at Belle Terre Village hearing

Deer hunting debate gets heated at Belle Terre Village hearing

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People protest a proposed deer hunting law in front of the Belle Terre Village Hall. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Belle Terre officials got an earful at Village Hall on Tuesday night, as residents and visitors debated a proposal to allow deer hunting in the village over the sounds of jeers and the din of snide remarks.

At a public hearing over the proposed law, which the board of trustees developed in response to complaints about experiences with an increased deer population, more people spoke against hunting than in favor, shifting at least one trustee’s opinion.

Comments touched upon issues of public safety and health as well as quality of life. Yuri Farber was part of the minority speaking in support of hunting, saying the deer are destroying his property and he wants the village to offer him protection or allow him to do something “to get rid of this nuisance.”

“This is just not fair,” he said, noting that he would have recourse if it were a human destroying his plants.

But many speakers favored leaving nature alone.

Chris Nelson said, “It was their foliage before it was ours,” and he likes the environment in his village. Dr. Mike Fracchia, to applause from the audience, said falling trees — such as the ones sent flying during a powerful and unexpected storm in early August — were a larger threat to villagers than deer and the animals were “a nuisance that I’m willing to tolerate.”

Other arguments in opposition to deer hunting in Belle Terre included perceived flaws in the proposed law that would define hunting too broadly or make a new set of regulations impossible to enforce.

One woman, who identified herself as a pediatrician, warned the village board that with every law there are people who abuse it.

According to the proposal, residents and their guests would be allowed to use weapons such as crossbows, BB guns or similar devices other than firearms to hunt on their own properties at least 150 feet away from any home, as long as they have state hunting licenses and a permit from the village.

But many worried a child would get caught in the crosshairs.

Dr. Ken Rosenthal held up a broadhead arrow he found at his front door one day, to gasps and murmurs from the audience. The concern about the welfare of playing kids was repeated throughout the night.

Residents also debated whether hunting deer would produce the result desired.

While some said they were worried about contracting illnesses such as Lyme disease from the ticks deer carry, others said many smaller creatures, such as raccoons, carry those ticks as well. And the pediatrician, a Seaside Drive resident, noted that there are diseases everywhere and “unless we’re going to live in a bubble” we take risks in everything we do.

There were calls for compromises and for the board to do more research into sterilization methods, related costs and the actual size of the deer herd in Belle Terre, as some speakers acknowledged deer as a problem, but the sentiment in the room leaned heavily against allowing hunting.

Jaime Ivory produced a petition of 209 signatures against the proposed village law, representing more than 100 households. Her husband Brendan told the board to “go back to the drawing board.”

“This code needs to be thrown out,” he said about the proposal. “You know it.”

The debate had Trustee Bob Sandak changing his public stance on deer hunting in the village.

In a previous interview, Sandak said he had been leaning toward voting in favor of the hunting law because he wanted to do what the majority of the community wanted. But at Tuesday night’s meeting, Sandak got up to the podium and explained that the proposed regulations would only allow about four or five properties in Belle Terre to legally hunt, and the deer would leave those properties if hunting began.

Gasps and applause erupted in the audience when he said, “So as far as I’m concerned, a hunt at this point is ridiculous to consider.”