Deer hunting continues at Nepaug Reservoir

NEW HARTFORD — The state Department of Environmental Protection will begin the second phase of a regulated deer hunt within a large portion of the Nepaug Reservoir next week. The program’s shotgun season begins at the site Nov. 18.

Of the reservoir’s 3,400 acres, 1,400 have been enrolled in the DEP Wildlife Division’s deer hunting program, according to information included within a Metropolitan District Commission newsletter that outlines the program. This is the first time hunting has been legally allowed at the reservoir.

The commission — which owns and operates the reservoir — provides drinking water and sewer services to the residents of Bloomfield, East Hartford, Hartford, Newington, Rocky Hill, West Hartford, Wethersfield and Windsor, as well as portions of other towns.

Nepaug lies within large sections of New Hartford and Burlington. The land included in this fall’s hunt surrounds the reservoir to the north and west.

Currently the state is managing a bow hunting season at Nepaug. It began Sept. 24 and runs through Tuesday, Nov. 17. This is the first time hunting has been legally allowed at the reservoir.

The DEP is administering the regulated hunt in conjunction with the Metropolitan District Commission.

The goal of the program is to reduce the size of the area’s deer population to allow for the regrowth of sustainable forest land. Deer over-browsing can threaten the health of the watershed and therefore the quality of the water supply.

“Watershed forests help to protect and purify water supplies by slowing rainfall and runoff, moderating stream flows, stabilizing soils and trapping pollutants and sediment,†the commission wrote in its newsletter.

Andrew Labonte, a state wildlife biologist, said the decision to institute the pilot program at Nepaug this fall came after commission officials became aware
of the large amount of damage the deer browsing was having on the health of the forest.

Labonte said the commission conducted clear cutting in the area about two years ago, “but they saw no regeneration.â€

Commission officials erected a small, fenced area that would protect the vegetation. After a period of time, the trees and shrubs located within the fence were regrowing at a healthy rate, while those outside were not.

“Ninty percent of regeneration had been browsed by deer,†Labonte said. “Everything was barren.â€

The state conducted a lottery to hand out the 122 permits to hunters interested in participating in the program. To receive a permit, however, hunters first had to pass a background check conducted by the commission’s patrol staff.

In addition, all participants were required to attend mandatory pre-hunt meetings that reviewed the program’s goals, safety and security procedures, as well as special requirements for watershed protection, the commission said in its newsletter.

So far, there have been seven deer killed through the hunt.

Labonte said this low number was not unexpected.

“There are so many acorns in the woods the deer don’t need to move too far to feed, making them less vulnerable to hunters,†he said. “I’m sure the firearms season will be quite different, seeing the area has not been hunted prior to this year.â€

The state will conduct a second bow hunting season, which will run from Dec. 23 to 31. This will be the third and final season of the year.

Labonte said the program will most likely become an annual one at the site.

“For deer management to be successful it has to be a continuous effort,†he said. “It has to be done on an annual basis.â€

For more information
about regulated hunts, visit the state Department of Environmental Protection Web site at ct.gov/dep.

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