US hunters looking for permission to hunt deer on Jamaica

(Jamaica Gleaner) Big-game hunters from the United States are trying to get permission to head to Jamaica to hunt the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), which is reportedly breeding at an alarming rate and emerging as a major threat to the natural environment and agriculture, especially in the eastern parish of Portland.

American Thomas McIntyre is seeking permission to take the hunters to Jamaica as a new tourism attraction while creating a lucrative income-generating stream for locals.

“I write for several hunting-and-fishing magazines here in the United States and have, for more than 40 years, and I can assure you that my readers would be very interested in a new deer-hunting location on the map, especially one as exotic, to them, as Jamaica,” McIntyre said in an email toThe Sunday Gleaner.

He continued: “If you could please send me information on the deer situation on your island and the presence there of any hunting lodges or tourist operators who might be able to accommodate foreign hunters, I would very much appreciate hearing back from you.

“American hunters would be very keen to explore a new hunting area and could possibly help you in the organisation of deer hunting in your country that could both help lower the population of a destructive species, while paying for the privilege, and in the process help raise foreign income for your agency, Government, and local people.”

McIntyre’s interest was triggered by aSunday Gleaner story last August in which terrestrial biologist Damion White advised that the white-tailed deer, an alien invasive species, was becoming a problem.

“They have no natural predators and are spreading fast, and this is because the food supply is good all year round,” White said then.

“A very conservative estimate of the population is more than 6,000 in the wild,” added White.

This was a major drawing card for the American whose appeal for permission continued: “I would like to believe I know the American hunter fairly well, and I am reasonably certain that he or she would be eager to learn about a previously unknown hunting opportunity on a wonderful vacation spot such as Jamaica.

“There is also the fact that the white-tailed deer is the most popular big-game animal in North America – its numbers are at nearly pre-Columbian levels and every year, over 10 million hunters go in pursuit of it. Tell those deer hunters that you have an overpopulation of white-tail in Jamaica, and if the price is right, stand out of their way.”

McIntyre reached out toThe Sunday Gleaner after he said he failed to get a response, or acknowledgement of his queries from the National Environment and Protection Agency (NEPA) about the possibility of US hunters hunting white-tails on the island.

Last year, NEPA gave bird shooters the OK to actively hunt the animals during and beyond its annual hunting season.

In addition, NEPA advised that there would be no bag limits but warned that the law against environmental breaches, such as pursuing deer into designated protected areas like game reserves, game sanctuaries or forest reserves, would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

But the American’s effort to get some guidance from the agency on how to proceed legally has been met with silence.

“For the moment, I do need to establish some communication with the proper officials at NEPA. I have emailed the agency, but so far no response. There would be much to be done in organising hunts for foreigners. Perhaps it will not even prove feasible. I am still very interested in exploring this possibility, even if it ultimately leads to a cul-de-sac.

“I suppose there are no professional guides-outfitters on the island, at least not for deer. But is there anyone who organises bird shooting, and who might be able and interested in expanding out to host deer hunters? Are there any professional hunters employed by the environment agency, tasked with culling deer? Is there any hunters’ or gun owners’ association on the island with whom I might speak?” said McIntyre.

WhenThe Sunday Gleaner contacted NEPA last week, the agency said it was aware of the query from McIntyre and it had been forwarded to the relevant person.

According to NEPA, there is no declared season in Jamaica to permit the hunting of the white-tailed deer.

NEPA said it is at present administering survey instruments to gather further information on the white- tailed deer’s distribution and impact on the environment and the agricultural sector.

“The information received will be used to develop an eradication/population reduction strategy for consultation with key stakeholders before implementation. Additionally, the agency is seeking to address invasive species’ eradication by exploring amendments to the relevant legislation.

“Although some Jamaicans may hunt the white-tailed deer for domestic purposes, this activity is presently not regulated. Hunting in protected areas such as forest reserves, game reserves, game sanctuaries and national parks is prohibited,” said NEPA.

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