BOSTON (Reuters) - A park just outside Boston this year will allow deer hunting for the first time in more than a century, as state officials struggle to keep up with a surge in the population of the animals.
Massachusetts' 7,000-acre (2,833-hectare) Blue Hills State Reservation, which has banned hunting since 1893, will be the closest place to New England's largest city to allow hunting with the exception of a small group of islands in Boston Harbor where waterfowl hunting is permitted, according to state officials.
The state is not alone in allowing hunting in a densely populated suburb, some 11 miles (18 km) south of Boston, which land managers and environmentalists have identified as the most effective way to cull the surging deer population that has contributed to a rise in tick-borne diseases.
State biologists estimate that the park, popular with hikers, mountain bikers and skiers, has a population of more than 80 deer per square mile (2.6 sq km) of habitat, more than four times as many as they reckon the land should support.
"From New York City to Chicago to Colorado Springs to Washington, D.C., it's a problem because there's no longer native predators, the bears, the wolves, the mountain lions," says Doug Inkley, Senior Scientist at National Wildlife Federation. "What's left is starvation, the automobile, or hunting."
The deer hunt will occur during the state's existing shotgun hunting season, on four days: Nov. 30, Dec. 1, Dec. 7 and Dec. 8, on approximately 3,000 acres (1,200 hectares) of the park. Hunters will be required to apply for a special permit.
Officials will provide high-visibility orange hats and vests for hikers and other non-hunters who want to enter the park during the hunting days, the Boston Globe reported.
"The high deer population is destroying habitat for birds and other animals," said Judy Jacobs, executive director of the Friends of the Blue Hills, a private group that supports the park. "The deer population needs to be brought down to a healthy level."