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Helicopter survey to recount valley deer after hunt ends

Haudenosaunee take 29 deer during initial six-week run

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

The Hamilton Conservation Authority is planning a second aerial survey of deer populations in the Dundas Valley after the latest native hunt ends next Thursday.

Chief administrative officer Chris Firth-Eagland said the helicopter count will be conducted the Ministry of Natural Resources and likely take place within the next three weeks, provided there is enough snow on the ground to make the deer visible.

A previous MNR aerial survey in 2009 counted 505 deer in the valley, or nearly 300 more than the ministry considers ecologically desirable. One planned for last year was cancelled due to budgetary constraints.

“We’re booked, we’re in the roster, the money is there,” Firth-Eagland said of this year’s effort, noting the timing will depend on Mother Nature’s cooperation.

“If the snow melts this Friday when it gets warm and doesn’t come back all winter – and we probably need about a four- to six-inch, decent snowpack to be able to do the count, because you can’t see them (otherwise) – that would stop it. That’s really about the only thing.”

Plans for the survey come as the authority once again closed the westernmost end of the Dundas Valley on Monday to allow for the final two weeks of an eight-week native deer hunt that began on Nov. 13 and took a two-week pause for the holiday season.

The area bounded by Powerline, Martin, Jerseyville and Paddy Green roads will also be closed to the public on Monday through Thursday next week.

Firth-Eagland said the Haudenosaunee had “harvested” 29 deer during the first six weeks of the hunt that ended Dec. 21, well shy of the 80 limit set out in a protocol first developed for a 2011 hunt.

As in 2011, he said this season’s hunt has gone “quite smoothly,” with the lone dispute involving a native hunter who wasn’t part of the official Haudenosaunee Wildlife and Habitat Authority that oversees the protocol – one that was resolved.

“We’ll still get a call occasionally from someone who might wish that it was open to non-First Nations people as well. It isn’t, and it isn’t for a reason. It’s not a hunt. It starts with not challenging their treaty rights; that’s the beginning of it,” Firth-Eagland said.

“The fact that they respect our wildlife management perspectives and reflect on that in the suggested number of deer that’s appropriate to take is just wonderful because we have mutual understanding and mutual respect.”

Under the protocol, the Haudenosaunee, who maintain treaty rights to hunt in the valley, agree to inform the Ministry of Natural Resources and Hamilton police of the hunt’s dates, times, contact information and emergency plans.

Hand notices also go out to adjacent landowners.

Hunters are to carry identification, keep at least 150 metres away from homes and use only use bows and shotguns “to take deer humanely.”

They are to hunt from tree stands and blinds where possible and not use dogs, feed bait or lighting to blind deer. Hunting is to only take place during the day, although wounded deer can be tracked after sunset.

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