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Wildlife preserve could be in town's future

(8/8) Recent public concerns over proposed plans by the town to exterminate the beaver population at Rainbow Lake and reports of shots fired from town property into private land could spur legislation to establishing wildlife management areas.

Although town administrators said the town did not intend to continue killing beavers, the board of commissioners took measures to ensure that any similar proposal in the future would first be brought before the commissioners.

However, some feel that something more might need to be done about hunting on town lands.

Hunters may have fired into private land

Emmitsburg permits licensed hunters, fishers and trappers to hunt on town lands as long as they do so within state guidelines.

However, town resident Catherine Forrence, who has horses on her mother's, Betsey Forrence, land outside of town, told the board of commissioners July 17 that hunters shooting on town land have fired into her mother's property.

Forrence said, "Last year we had problems with hunters on the Scott Road property," noting that the horses are kept on land owned by Betsey Forrence next to Toms Creek.

Betsey Forrence said the problem goes back "a couple of years" beginning with an incident where hunters coming from town property were pursuing a deer across Toms Creek.

Forrence was in the process of creating a walking garden in that area of her land. She said the hunters fired right into where the proposed garden was underway. "It's very scary to me," she said. "We now have horses on the property."

Catherine Forrence said she had asked the town to produce a map with safety zones designated, but "that has never happened."

Commissioner to consider wildlife management

Commissioner William B. O'Neil Jr. told The Dispatch that he was possibly interested in pursuing legislation to establish a wildlife management area to protect wildlife and humans.

Beyond simply preserving as much indigenous wildlife as necessary to maintain a balanced ecology. O'Neil said, "I, too, am alarmed to hear about hunting near rural residences. Shooting over a creek to target a deer in someone's garden clearly should not be tolerated. I like the idea of establishing a best management practices guidelines, to include safety zones for hunting."

O'Neil suggested that not all town lands would fall within any proposed wildlife management rules, because that "would include such things as the water / sewer treatment plants, power substations, recreational fields, etc."

He said that a resolution calling for a moratorium on hunting and trapping activities on town lands could be introduced at the next session of the board of commissioners.

The moratorium would be temporary, conditioned on the development of an approved wildlife management plan that would include acceptable hunting safety zones and assurances that indigenous species would not be exterminated.

An ordinance would likely follow at some point after the moratorium is in place declaring certain portions of town lands as wildlife management areas to be governed by best management practices guidelines.

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