2017-11-02 / Front Page

Hunters may be instructed to be more careful at heath

By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer


While hunting is legal at Saco’s Heath Preserve, hunters could be asked to avoid using the boardwalk soon. An area resident found blood and organs from an animal while at the preserve, prompting her to post on Facebook warning families with children. Anyone who sees something in the preserve they wish to report can call the Nature Conservancy, which oversees the land, at 729-5181 in its Brunswick office. (Grant McPherson photo) While hunting is legal at Saco’s Heath Preserve, hunters could be asked to avoid using the boardwalk soon. An area resident found blood and organs from an animal while at the preserve, prompting her to post on Facebook warning families with children. Anyone who sees something in the preserve they wish to report can call the Nature Conservancy, which oversees the land, at 729-5181 in its Brunswick office. (Grant McPherson photo) SACO – More signs could be installed at the Saco Heath Preserve after one visitor found a mess left over from a hunting trip. Amanda Bernheisel, an Old Orchard Beach resident, visited Saco Heath Saturday, Oct. 21 for a walk when she discovered the remnants of what she presumed to be a deer.

“First I saw bloody track marks on the boardwalk,” she wrote in an email to The Courier. “Then I saw some of the remains, organs, maybe (10) feet or so off the boardwalk in the heath. I tried calling the warden service itself, but since they were closed there was a recording directing me to call the state police, which I did.”

Saco Heath is a 1,223-acre woodland preserve on Buxton Road. A one-mile trail and boardwalk provides visitors access to the preserve. The heath is managed by the Nature Conservancy, a multinational conservation organization with more than 75 preserves in Maine that cover 1,700,000 acres.

A warden told Bernheisel he would inspect the remains at the heath but she has not heard back. While hunting is legal in the preserve, hunters are advised to use extreme caution. There are signs posted urging visitors to wear orange during hunting season and reminding hunters that Saco Heath is a high traffic area.

“I’m not sure what the warden service has done but I hope they at least took the organs away to a more appropriate place,” Bernheisel wrote. “I’d hate for some child to accidentally see that.”

John MacDonald, media contact for the Maine Warden Service, said he wasn’t aware of the incident at the heath. Since hunting is legal there, he didn’t expect any consequences for leaving a mess in a public spot. However, he said he would like to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“It might just be more of an educational opportunity to emphasize to them they might have an impact on the community by putting it in a bad place,” he said.

Nancy Sferra, director of stewardship and ecological management at the Nature Conservancy, said incidents like these happen only once or twice a year in Maine. The conservancy manages almost 300,000 in the state. She said aside from 650 acres, the rest is open to hunting.

“We typically don’t have incidents of conflict between visitors and hunters,” she said.

There is an alternate access point to the heath on Flag Pond Road. The Nature Conservancy placed a chain-link gate across the road into the preserve about five years ago. Sferra said the conservancy may prohibit hunters from using the boardwalk and restrict them to using the Flag Pond entrance.

“The heath now gets lots of visitor usage, which is great,” she said. “What we don’t want is folks out for a nice walk having an interaction with people walking down the boardwalk with guns. Some people get freaked out about that even if it is hunting season. It may be time for us to post signs that hunters are not allowed to access through the boardwalk.”

Sferra said the Nature Conservancy is concerned about these incidents and anyone is welcome to contact them.

“Oftentimes we hear third party,” she said. “We’re happy to have people pick up the phone and give us a call. If people out there see something we should be aware of, call us. We want to know what’s going on out there.”

The Nature Conservancy can be reached in their Wells office at 729-5181 and in Brunswick at 251-2256.

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