What was that loud noise? Deer hunting comes to Wertheim

Wertheim deer hunting sign

If you were wondering about the loud noises coming from the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in Shirley this week — what, with the partial government shutdown and all — it’s because it’s deer-hunting season.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the gate to the main entrance was closed — as only vehicles with special permission were allowed in.

A letter paper-sized sign read:

Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge IS CLOSED FOR A CONTROLLED DEER HUNT (SHOTGUN) ON: January 16-17, 2019. This closure includes Indian Landing, the Black Tepulo, Connector and White Oak Trails. FOR YOUR SAFETY, PLEASE DO NOT ENTER.”

Reached Friday, Ann Marie Chapman, Wertheim’s visitor services manager, said the refuge was closed for the hunt, “and we’ve always done that as a public safety measure.”

Chapman said the refuge got funding to open with “a number of individuals” for 30 business days past Jan. 9, which allowed for the hunt to occur.

A scheduled hunt for Jan. 7 and 8 was canceled due to the shutdown, she said.

Chapman said 15 hunters were out on Thursday and likely a similar number were hunting on Wednesday. She did not have totals on how many deer were culled.

She said the refuge is “definitely severely overpopulated with deer,” which destroy the habitat for other animals in the refuge.

A study showed that there are about 62 deer per habitable square mile in the refuge. The ideal is 29. Chapman said Wertheim would continue deer hunts, including fall archery hunts, until the population was reduced to “a non-destructive level.”

The gunshots from the hunt had a few people who live locally alarmed. It was a popular topic of discussion for the Facebook group “Shirley and the Mastics. Our Town, Our Community, Our Home!”