WV Wildlife: Blennerhassett Controlled Deer Hunt

These lucky hunters names were drawn to participate in the controlled hunt on Blennerhassett Island, just outside of Parkersburg. (WCHS/WVAH)

There's only about one way to reach Blennerhassett island--by boat.

This historic 4-mile stretch of land--just west of Parkersburg in the Ohio River--is also known for its peacefulness and isolation.

It's that same isolation, though, that can throw nature out of balance some.

This is especially true with deer on the island. With no natural predators--or a hunting season--they can easily become overpopulated, and that's simply not healthy for the deer.

Jeff McCrady, a wildlife biologist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, says they've already seen evidence of this over the years.

“We've had starvation on this island. We've had disease outbreaks, and when you get the population density too high--it effects the health of the entire herd. And also for the historical area here around the mansion--make sure not all the vegetation, the forbs and the herbs aren't destroyed", said McCrady.

That's why recently, our West Virginia DNR held a controlled hunt on the island. This is where hunters, who have a valid West Virginia hunting license, can submit an application to possibly have their name drawn. If so, they will be allowed to hunt on the island during the chosen day. Numerous DNR officials are also there to examine the deer after the hunt. The information collected will give them a good idea how many deer the island can support.

"These are deer that have been harvested and have been brought in, and there's DNR personnel who are weighing the deer, taking antler beam measurements, checking fat content and things like that--just to get a general idea of what the health of these individual deer are like, so that we can compare through the years and see if we're having a beneficial effect with these hunts", said McCrady.

So far, these controlled hunts--which started right here on Blennerhassett island--appear to be keeping the population in check. This will not only benefit the deer, but all wildlife on the island.

"Back 20 to 30 years ago, there were a lot more deer on the island then. In fact, our population counts indicated that we had over 700 deer per square mile on the island, which is almost unheard of", said McCrady.

Blennerhassett isn't the only state park with these controlled hunts, either. Pipestem Resort, Cacapon Resort and North Bend State Park also hold these events. McCrady says no matter where they occur, the hunters always appreciate it.

"The hunters here seem to really enjoy it, and it's a good cooperation effort between DNR and the public. We appreciate having them, and everybody seems to have a good time", said McCrady.

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