. — Despite opposition from a Logan County organization, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources plans to move ahead with a controlled hunt at Chief Logan State Park this fall.
“We’ve been doing these since 2001 and we’ve been doing them without incident,” said West Virginia DNR Director Steve McDaniel on West Virginia Outdoors. “We hold them in early November or late October when our parks are relatively empty and we do it during the week when the kids are in school.”
The controlled hunts are aimed at reducing the numbers of deer on the state parks property. Hunting under normal circumstances is not allowed in the parks and the controlled hunts are the agency’s answer to keeping deer numbers at proper management levels.
The Friends of Chief Logan organization and Logan veterinarian Dr. Scott Siegal are the leading opponents of the idea. Siegal questions whether there is an over abundance of deer in the park to begin with.
“Ten to 15 years ago the herds in the park were large, nobody will contest that,” he said. “For whatever reason they aren’t like that now. The numbers are down I estimate 70 to 80 percent. You may go into the park and take a hike and not see any. That’s not just my observation, that’s the consensus of people who use the park daily, the number of deer are dramatically down.”
Siegal, who is also a wildlife biologist, claimed the agency never produced a written report on the population numbers in the park and actually never visited the park to check it out. McDaniel, when asked about the claim, said there were at least three park visits entailed in the survey to arrive at their plan for the number of deer to be removed.
But Siegal’s argument runs much deeper than the dispute over deer numbers with the park. He, and others in his organization, contend a controlled hunt is not the proper way to reduce those numbers. He suggested if there were a problem, the DNR should hire trained marksmen to come into the park and quickly eradicate the appropriate number of deer and donate the meat to charity.
“You bring in professionals who will do it the most humane way. Two or three marksmen and then donate the meat to food lockers,” Siegal said. “A pick of the draw and people walking through that park with bows, that’s not the most humane way.”
It’s a claim which bristles many sportsmen in West Virginia and McDaniel alike who claimed Siegal and his organization are purely an anti-hunting group working to get a foothold in West Virginia.
“First of all, if I send sharpshooters with rifles into Chief Logan State Park, you talk about trouble with a controlled hunt, I’d REALLY have a problem then,” McDaniel reasoned. “Why not let the local hunter have the opportunity. Why do we need to pay to bring someone in? We’re working with the West Virginia Bowhunters Association to make sure these people know what they’re doing and know how to use their archery equipment.”
“It’s all about people against hunting and we understand that,” added McDaniel. “I knew that when I took this job. There are people for hunting and there are people against hunting and then there are people in the middle. But we have to do our job.”
“I’m for conservation and I have no problem with hunting in general, but not hunting in an area where you have deer that are domesticated and a low number of deer,” Siegal countered. “These deer will walk right up to you. That’s not hunting, there’s no sport when you go in there and they come up to you. That’s like hunting in a petting zoo. That’s just wrong.”
The Natural Resources Commission approved adding an application fee to anyone applying for a controlled hunt permit. According to the director in the past several thousand would apply and more than half would be anti-hunters. On the day of the hunt very few drawn for permis showed up and the process would have to be done again. The fee is to weed out those who were applying with no plans to ever show up to hunt.
“We deal with anti-hunting at the DNR on a continual basis,” said McDaniel. “This is just one of those issues where Dr. Siegal and I disagree. But I have a job to do and my folks have a job to do and we’re going to continue to do it.”