By Paul Conyers
Problems with deer have been on the agenda of the Londonderry Conservation Commission, with crop damage reported at the Moose Hill Apple Orchard. Commission members discussed how to deal with the problem at their latest meeting.
The farm also contains strawberries and pumpkins, two plants more vulnerable to damage with no predators in the area.
One suggestion was a special application for hunting licenses restricted to the afflicted orchards. Fish & Game is permitted to authorize targeted and limited hunting licenses in the offseason.
“Only one or two people would have hunting licenses, they would typically be hunting at night and only in the orchard, so the deer would have to be munching on trees in order to get shot.” According to Commission member Susan Malouin. She was eventually forced to reject a hunting solution as “unfortunately, the dealbreaker is that all the easements say no hunting, not at night, not during the day, no hunting.”
The only way around these restrictions would be to get a judge to provide an exception to the current land agreement. Such a fix would be expensive.
The presence of guard dogs in the orchard provides a possible solution. Dog in the orchard out at night could chase deer away without running afoul of hunting restrictions. However, dogs are generally not allowed near apples meant for human consumption. “This is not allowed if you’re trying to get food safety certification” Malouin warned. “It’s a legitimate concern not to have the dogs.”
Another solution is to allow more people into the orchards. The scent of people makes wild deer uncomfortable, driving them away from the apple trees. The Commission favored looking into ways to open up more orchard space to hikers.
Owners of the orchards have restricted access to the orchards in the past year. Some speculated that having fewer people around the orchards contributed to the deer problem.
The Commission debated better maintenance on existing paths in the area, asking the orchard to maintain a clearly marked mowed trail. They also reiterated that existing paths already exist on the town map, even if they are not always clearly marked. “People would be allowed at all times, or at least during daylight hours, on the designated paths” assured Conservation Commission Vice-Chair Eugene Harrington.
Malouin promised to refer the deer problem to Fish & Game along with all possible solutions. The Commission will also work with Orchard owners to mark public trails in the area.