Saturday, May 25, 2002

Deer abound at army depot; new security rules ban hunt

The Associated Press

        RICHMOND, Ky. — Blue Grass Army Depot is teeming with deer, who were given a reprieve last year when hundreds of hunters were barred from the depot after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

        The depot traditionally holds hunts each year to regulate the number of animals. Last year, 375 permits had been issued before the Sept. 11 attacks. Hunters often waited years before getting the chance to attend the annual hunts.

        But the Army limited access last year because of concerns about the chemical weapons stockpile.

        That meant a winter and spring of unfettered growth for the herd that roams the facility's 15,000 acres.

        Depot spokesman Dave Easter said final numbers wouldn't be available until early fall, but he estimates the herd of 750 has grown to more than 1,000.

        “We know there's definitely been a spike this year,” Mr. Easter said. “We're just not sure what to do about it.”

        Jonathan Day, forest systems program coordinator with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, said with each female in a herd producing an average of 1.5 fawns a year, the herd at the depot could have added as many as 400 animals.

        However, Mr. Day said, such growth could be slowed by lack of food, poor weather or disease.

        Left unchecked, too many deer can result in breeding problems, malnutrition and other health problems for the herd. Depot officials also would have to worry about the potential for more vehicle collisions with deer, officials said.

        Hunting will be an option, but officials aren't sure what form it will take. The hunt could be limited to employees only, or to just bowhunters, Mr. Easter said.

        “I would love to see them open it up,” said Bob Wooding, state chairman of the National Bowhunting Educational Foundation.

        But hunting concerns must be balanced with the security of 500 tons of chemical weapons at the depot.

        “They have to make decisions based on what's best for them as a military facility,” Mr. Day said. “If deer hunting is a low priority on their list, it would be understandable.”


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