ATTLEBORO — A public hearing on a proposed ordinance that would add restrictions to hunting rules in Attleboro is likely to draw a big crowd.
City resident and hunter Dale Rheaume is among those leading the charge in opposition and has urged fellow hunters to attend and voice their concerns about the ordinance that would outlaw hunting on city property and require written permission from land owners to hunt on private property.
Rheaume urged a big turnout at the hearing next week before the city council in a YouTube post.
“The only way we can defeat this measure is if we have massive turnout,” he said. “We must show our strength and our willingness to fight for this cause.”
In addition, council administrator Virginia Stuart said she’s received a number of calls which indicate strong interest on the subject.
A similar session two years ago drew about 75 people, mostly hunters.
The hearing comes in the wake of long-simmering concerns from residents who’ve complained that hunters trespass, vandalize “no hunting” signs and shoot guns too close to their homes.
They said they fear walking on their own property in hunting season. Complaints started in 2012.
The ordinance sponsored by councilors Todd Kobus and Laura Dolan specifically cites safety concerns as the reason to tighten hunting regulations.
They argue that open space is diminishing as the result of “urban sprawl” and has made hunting more dangerous in urban cities like Attleboro.
But Rheaume argues that despite urban sprawl, the city still has many acres of land where it’s safe to hunt.
He points to the city-owned 300-acre Bungay River conservation area as one example.
In an interview with The Sun Chronicle, he said there are more than 2,000 acres that do not fall within the 500-foot “setback” from homes in which discharge of a firearm is prohibited.
“The premise that open space is diminishing is a false premise,” he said.
And Rheaume is ready to present evidence that hunting provides an important service by keeping the deer population in check.
The large number of deer which live in the area create hazards for motorists, increases the chance of people contracting tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease, and damage shrubbery and gardens in residential yards, he said.
He said 2017 statistics provided by police show there were 23 motor vehicle crashes with deer.
“In the absence of hunters, the deer population remains unchecked and they have a rapid rate of reproduction,” Rheaume said. “We do not have natural predators like wolves, so there’s a void that needs to be filled.”
He said statistics from the state’s fisheries and wildlife department put the number of deer per square mile in Bristol County at 80 while the ideal number is 6-18.
While he acknowledges that some hunters violate rules, they’re a small minority, Rheaume said.
“In most cases most hunters are not going to just intrude on someone’s land,” he said. “They are going to do the right thing and ask (the land owner) if they will allow hunting on their property.”
Rheaume said statistics provided by the police department also show that problems with trespassers are few.
There were 41 complaints possibly related to hunting in the last six years, he said.
Sixteen were “unfounded,” 24 did not require a report and one indicated that “peace was restored.”
Rheaume said he understands the fear of guns, especially in this day and age, but said there are ways to work with the city to lessen the danger to residents from hunting on public property.
For example, hunting could be limited to primitive single shot guns or bows, he said. In addition, some towns publicize the areas where hunting is allowed and when it is allowed to help keep people safe.
The hearing is slated for Tuesday at 7 p.m. in City Hall.