Deer & Tick Committee charged with shaving costs

DON BINDLER PHOTO | A deer cavorting on Shell Beach recently. Deer & Tick Committee members said Wednesday that culling the herd is its first priority.

The newly re-formed Deer and Tick Committee agreed on one goal Wednesday — cull the deer herd so the town can decrease its use of 4-posters.

But how that might be achieved has no easy answer.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty charged the committee to seek expertise on deer and tick problems, but to also become “financial gurus,” figuring how to lower expenses connected with solving the problems.

With a $90,000 budget to pay for 4-posters in 2014, plus contributions by three Islanders for units and six units at the Mashomack Preserve, the town is getting close to 60 units, the number of 4-posters in operation a few years ago during a test program by the Cornell University/Cornell Cooperative Extension test program.

Still, culling the herd, not just applying tickicide through 4-posters, is a priority. But in neighborhoods like Silver Beach, where neighbors complain about increasing numbers of deer, new committee member Jim Colligan, who is president of the Silver Beach Association, said it’s hard getting full cooperation to allow shooting deer in the center of the development. Because houses are nearer than the 500-foot setback required for hunting, all residents would have to agree to allow hunting.

Although the committee’s two new members, — Mr. Colligan and Marc Wein, and new chairman, Mike Scheibel, aren’t any more in favor than local hunters of inviting sharpshooters to the Island to help cull the herd, it’s a possibility they’re not taking it off the table either.
“We may have to move in that direction eventually,” Mr. Colligan said.

The committee is talking with United States Department of Agriculture officials about the sharpshooter program. They’re also seeking more data on the local hunt in the next year to determine whether they should convince the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to waive some of its limits allowing local shotgun hunters to bag deer during the bow and arrow season.

The committee also wants a closer look at what’s happening in other communities throughout the United States to decrease deer population with an eye to determining both cost and long-range effectiveness.

As the debate goes on about what is or isn’t working on Shelter Island, committee member Steve Lenox credits the 60 4-posters that were used through 2010 here with vastly reducing the tick population. He added that the town needs a minimum of 50 units.

Councilman Ed Brown, liaison to the committee, questioned whether 4-posters should be credited with the reduction, suggesting that weather changes might be the factor impacting the tick population.

“I think it came from the 4-posters,” Mr. Lenox reiterated.

Even if 4-posters are somewhat responsible for cutting down on ticks, ramping up and seeing an effect is going to take a few years, Mr. Brown said.

“I feel the urgency to move ahead” with solutions now, he said.

One possibility the committee wants to explore is ways to provide incentives for increasing the number of deer killed and to enhance payments to butchers to deal with the meat, some of which lands in refrigeration units at the Recycling Center. Too many carcasses are being dumped in woods, creating a problem with odors, Mr. Brown said.

There are 18 people hunting locally and that may be getting close to the saturation point, given the limited space to hunt here, Police Chief Jim Read said.

In the past, there were two people butchering the deer — Ray Bouissey and Scott Lechmanski, but Mr. Bouissey is off-Island. A search is under way to add another butcher, Chief Read said.

Part of the committee’s charge is identifying more places on the Island where shooting can take place, he added. He noted that the law prohibits paying local hunters to kill deer, but if money were available, a raffle could be held each week among those who have bagged a deer, with the winner receiving a gift certificate to be used at a sports and hunting store.