Deer dogs cause disruption

Published 8:51 am Thursday, December 9, 2010

JACKSON — The Northampton County Board of Commissioners are looking to address the prevalent problem of hunting dogs entering onto private property.

On Monday, Dr. Riddick Ricks brought the matter before the board after experiencing deer hunting dogs causing disruption on his family’s property located near Jackson.

The land serves as a tree farm that has been recognized with multiple awards from the state and has been in the Ricks family for many generations. The property is also home to Eastern Pines Wildlife Preserve registered with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. The Ricks family also manages three farms in Northampton County certified as safe harbors for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

“Our property is essentially being taken over by dog hunters during hunting season and there is very little we can do to solve this,” he said.

Ricks said in the past, hunters have been seen pulling their vehicles near the property’s gate, opening the dog boxes and releasing 20-30 dogs at a time. He added the hunters do this in hopes that the dogs will run deer from his land.

In the past few weeks, Ricks said packs of dogs have come through the land disrupting the family’s visitors and making the work of foresters and biologists nearly impossible.

Ricks said he wasn’t going to try to complain, but he felt the issue needed to be addressed.

“When you look across this state, deer dog hunting is a hotbed topic, it is one that many counties and many boards of commissioners have addressed and dealt with,” he said.

Ricks added 50 percent of the counties in North Carolina have outlawed deer dog hunting because of the disruption it causes.

Ricks said he wanted to be “very clear” that he was not asking to eliminate hunting deer with dogs, but that it is within the board’s capability to regulate it.

“I’ve had problems and I’ve chose to address what I call irresponsible deer dog hunting that is occurring in Northampton County and especially on my tree farm and my wildlife preserve,” he said. “The invasion on our property is significant and it interferes with my private land usage that my family and I have invested much in to enjoy.”

He continued by saying, “Deer dog hunting is a right to hunters in Northampton County and that right needs to be protected. And I would hope that could be, but it doesn’t need to be protected at the expense of private landowners who support the county with their land taxes and who try to designate their land for their own personal use.”

Ricks asked the board to consider finding a way to protect the rights of those choosing not to deer hunt with dogs, but also cannot find a way to stop those hunters who do hunt with dogs from unloading their animals on posted property.

“I’m really not trying to make it a personal issue with any individual or any deer hunting club, I just feel like my land has been invaded and my family is not able to enjoy what we’ve worked so hard for,” he said. “And the reason is we do not have a set of rules that regulate deer dog hunting in this county.”

Commission Vice Chair James Hester said he agreed with Ricks.

“The dogs should not be allowed to run on posted property,” he said. “And anyone who runs their dogs on posted property it seems to me they’re taking advantage, unfair advantage. I know dogs can’t read ‘no hunting’ signs, but the dog owners can and they’re responsible for releasing their dogs in a place where they’re not infringing on someone else’s property.”

Commissioner Chester Deloatch said he agreed with Ricks as well.

Commission Chairperson Fannie Greene and Commissioner Robert Carter asked County Attorney Charles Vaughan to do research how other counties are handling the issue and provide some recommendations as to how Northampton can handle deer dog hunting.

“This is new territory we’re scratching here,” said Carter.

Ricks suggested the board look at how the state of Georgia has handled the matter. Vaughan asked Ricks to send him the information that he had found.

County Manager Wayne Jenkins noted how the problem is prevalent across the county.

“Mr. Carter you said we’re entering into new territory, but it’s not a new problem,” he said. “Each year about this time, I receive numerous calls from property owners that live in the county and some with primary residences out of the county.”

Jenkins referred to Wayne Bill Lewter of Garner who owns a secondary residence in Northampton County. Lewter said the problem is also a frequent occurrence where his property is located.

“The problem is getting worse in and around Potecasi,” he said. “There were dog hunters on my land this morning.”

County officials agreed the matter would be a sensitive issue as hunters invest a lot into the county

“Deer hunting and Northampton County go together like apple pie and baseball,” said Jenkins. “We have a lot of hunters that pay taxes that own a lot of property in our county. So we’ve got to find a happy balance here, so we do not infringe on the apple pie and baseball part of it, but at the same time we have to protect the rights of property owners as well.”

He continued by saying, “The first thing would be a call to our dog hunters and our hunting clubs to please respect the rights and the privacy rights of all property owners.”

Vaughan said he would study the issue and bring back the information to the board.