Originally created 05/26/05

Agency approves public hunts to curb deer herds



ATLANTA - With deer overpopulation having a negative impact on state parks, the board of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources gave final approval Wednesday to limited public hunts at three of the recreation sites.

The first of the two-day-long hunts will occur in November at Hard Labor Creek State Park, about 30 miles southwest of Athens, and will be followed by hunts in January at Red Top Mountain State Park near Cartersville and Richard B. Russell State Park in Elberton.

The harvests are needed to help control skyrocketing deer populations that are stripping state parks of vital foliage and causing environmental damage, officials said.

"We are taking very seriously our role as resource stewards," said Becky Kelley, the director of the department's Parks, Recreation & Historic Sites Division. "The overpopulation of deer on state parks has become an issue that we need to address."

Ms. Kelley stressed that the public shouldn't apply to participate in the hunts for mere recreation. Many of the deer at the state parks are severely emaciated and ill.

If the hunts prove successful, the department will consider expanding them to other state parks.

While some residents who live near the state parks have expressed concern about hunters entering the area with guns, officials say they are working to ensure that public safety isn't jeopardized during the hunts.

DEER HUNTS

The state Department of Natural Resources Board gave unanimous approval Wednesday to a plan allowing public deer hunts at three state parks: Hard Labor Creek State Park in Rutledge; Red Top Mountain State Park in Cartersville; and Richard B. Russell State Park in Elberton.

The hunts will take place on the following dates:

HARD LABOR CREEK (would be open to 250 hunters): Nov. 15-16; Jan. 10-11; Jan. 9-10, 2007

RED TOP MOUNTAIN (would be open to 25 hunters): Jan. 10-11; Jan. 9-10, 2007

RICHARD B. RUSSELL (would be open to 80 hunters): Jan. 9-10; Jan. 8-9, 2007

- Associated Press