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Providence Journal file photo Providence Journal file photo

Providence Journal file photo

C. Eugene Emery Jr.
By C. Eugene Emery Jr. January 26, 2014

Gun commentator says technique Rhode Island plans to use to hunt deer on Block Island is illegal

Nothing gets under people's skin like the government engaging in activity that is illegal for everyone else, such as when Congress passes laws and then exempts itself from them.

On Jan. 12, 2014, in a letter to The Providence Journal, Richard August, co-host of the WHJJ radio show "Lock, Stock and Daria," asserted that the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management would be doing exactly that if it carries out its plan to hire professional hunters to cull the deer population on Block Island.

According to the plan, the hunters would use feeding stations to lure the deer.

"Baiting deer happens to be illegal in Rhode Island," August wrote. "But I guess if you are the state, the laws don’t apply."

We wondered what the law actually said.

First, some background.

Block Island, officially known as New Shoreham, is overrun by deer -- an estimated 800 to 1,000 on the 9.5-square mile island. The town and the DEM have agreed on a plan to hire a Connecticut firm to reduce the population to 150 or fewer over the next four years.

Corn bait will be used to lure deer to 15 to 20 sites on the southwestern part of the island. Sharpshooters perched on raised platforms will shoot the deer. Their goal for this winter is to kill about 200, beginning in the last week of February.

The carcasses will be carved into venison using a mobile meat processing service based in Maine. The meat will be offered first to Block Island residents; the rest will be distributed to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and other hunger programs.

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Going back to August's claim, the "Deer Hunting" section of state law says the DEM can adopt rules and regulations on deer hunting in Rhode Island but, "In any event, the following prohibitions and restrictions shall always apply to deer hunting:"

Paragraph 6 says, "No person shall make, set, or use any trap or snare, or salt lick or other device for the purpose of ensnaring, enticing, taking, injuring, or killing a deer."

When we asked the DEM about this, the department released a statement through spokeswoman Gail Mastrati saying that the rule only applies to "recreational hunting." That's not what the DEM would be doing, she said.

"The bait and shoot deer reduction project on Block Island, authorized under emergency regulations filed by DEM on Nov. 7, 2013, to address a serious problem on the island, is not a recreational hunting activity," her statement said. "A bait and shoot deer reduction effort is very different from recreational hunting. The knowledge of animal behavior and the discipline and skills in marksmanship are more sophisticated and strategic than those necessary to be a successful recreational deer hunter."

The "deer hunting" section of state law does not make any distinction between recreational and non-recreational hunting.

We asked the DEM about that. The department responded in an email: "Hunting regulations do not apply to the deer culling operation because it is not a hunting activity. Rather, it is a wildlife management action authorized under DEM's statutory authority."

We'll leave it up to others to debate whether the culling of the island’s deer herd is really a hunt and, if so, whether the state’s hunting laws should apply to the DEM. (We should note, for example, that most of us have no problem with agents of the state, such as police officers, ignoring traffic signals or speed limits when chasing criminals.)

But when Richard August asserts that state law makes it illegal for hunters to use bait to lure deer, which is what the DEM plans to do when it stages a mass shooting of deer, he is correct.

We rate the claim True.

(If you have a claim you’d like PolitiFact Rhode Island to check, email us at [email protected]. And follow us on Twitter: @politifactri.)

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Gun commentator says technique Rhode Island plans to use to hunt deer on Block Island is illegal

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