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October 28. 2013 8:41PM

Hanover’s Balch Hill area to be opened to deer hunters

HANOVER — Opening up the Balch Hill Nature Area to hunting this season is part of a larger effort to bring down the deer and tick population in the Hanover area.

“It’s kind of catching up with us that our predecessors eliminated the natural predators for deer years ago,” said Adair Mulligan, executive director of Hanover Conservancy, which owns part of the nature area.

The town of Hanover and Dartmouth College also own parts of the nature area around Balch Hill.

The area is a favorite among local hikers and bird-watchers. It has been closed to hunting for the past 10 years.

This year, though, the town plans to grant a limited number of hunting permits for Balch Hill to thin the deer population.

Mulligan said the deer population “has expanded very dramatically and the deer are overwhelmingly small and thin.”

Unchecked by natural predators like wolves and mountain lions, the deer population in the area has become unhealthy.

According to a recent study by Dartmouth College students, the deer population is encroaching other wildlife. The deer eat native plant life before having to resort to eating invasive plants, encouraging the growth of invasive plant species and eliminating nesting habitats for native birds, Mulligan said.

Over the past several years, there has also been a growing concern over the deer tick population in the Hanover area and a rising number of Lyme disease cases in the area.

“We are certainly seeing a lot of ticks up there,” Mulligan said.

A summer symposium about the tick population and Lyme disease was held to standing room only in the town library, Mulligan said.

The natural area will be open to archers carrying a special town permit from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15. No firearms will be allowed.

The hunters will be advised by town officials that the area will remain open to hikers and that the Balch Hill Nature Area is surrounded by residential properties.

Most local residents favor thinning the deer herd, Mulligan said. And people using the nature area during hunting season are advised to be alert, wear bright orange and keep their pets with them on the trails.

“We did not want to close the trails. People just love this area,” Mulligan said.

N.H. Fish and Game, which is working on a larger regional effort to reduce the deer population in the Upper Valley region, has advised Hanover Conservancy that one hunting season will not solve the problem, Mulligan said, so hunting permits will likely be issued again in future hunting seasons.

“This is a trial year to see how the deer respond and how the people respond,” Mulligan said.

mpierce@newstote.com


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