A speck on the quiet side — that is how Bret Stearns, the natural resources officer for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), described hunting on the Vineyard last week, three days into the annual two-week shotgun season for deer. That season ends Saturday and is followed by the traditional two-week primitive firearms season. A longer bow hunting season ran from early November until last week.

Despite mild weather for hunting, the number of deer harvested so far has been average. With no natural predators, the white-tailed deer population on the Vineyard has grown alarmingly in recent years. While about seven deer per acre is considered the optimal number for a healthy herd, state wildlife biologists now estimate that there are fifty to sixty deer per acre on the Island. This translates to over-foraging on shrubs and backyard gardens. Far more seriously, deer are a key factor in the spread of Lyme disease, the insidious bacterial tick-borne infection that has afflicted untold numbers of Islanders and visitors.

A controlled deer hunt at the Blue Hills Reservation outside of Boston last week sparked protests by animal rights advocates, but here on the Vineyard where deer have long been an important food source during the long winter, hunting is largely accepted. In addition, most regard it as a public health service aimed at curbing the spread of disease-carrying ticks.

Hunting is allowed in the state forest, on many land bank properties and by written permission from private property owners.

This year for the first time in memory, hunting also was allowed at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, where deer have been found inside the airport perimeter fence, an aviation safety hazard. Airport commissioners shut down all runways for the day on Tuesday to allow a controlled hunt to take place. Although airlines and pilots were notified in advance of a temporary shutdown, there was no notice to the public about the hunt, for reasons that are still unclear.

The decision to hold the hunt was surely sound, but the community has a right to know what is occurring on public land and why.