Suffolk County deer hunters will have additional opportunities to pursue their prey during weekends in January as a result of legislation just signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.The legislation was shepherded through the state legislature by Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) and Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-C-Port Jefferson) as a means of expanding the season in order to cull more deer from herds that are hosts to ticks, thereby increasing the incidence of tick-borne diseases.
While opening up hunting on weekends in January, the legislation also makes clear that it’s not limited to shotgun hunters of those using muzzling loading firearms. It’s also an expansion for hunters using long bows. Under the new law, a hunter isn’t required to obtain a town permit during the January hunting season. But a state hunting permit is required.
The new law is part of a three-bill package passed recently to enhance efforts to cull deer herds in greater numbers. The legislation was recommended by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and supported by East End town and village officials.
In April, the state legislature reduced the setback from buildings necessary to hunt deer from 500 feet to 150 feet. The third bill is still awaiting the governor’s signature and would require the state to include non-lethal fertility control as apart of the management plan to reduce proliferation of deer that are hosts for the ticks.
“The recent population explosion of white-tailed deer on Eastern Long Island threatens public health, public safety, personal property and the environment,” Mr. Thiele said. “Local deer management plans describe the uncontrolled increase in population as an emergency, requiring immediate action,” he said.
Failure to control the increasing deer population endangers human health and safety, Mr. Thiele said.
“These three bills taken together will provide new tools to manage the deer population” and by balancing lethal and non-lethal methods should make the plan more acceptable, he said.
Communities in other states have employed both contraception and sterilization but both are time consuming and expensive, so not many municipalities have been able to bear the cost to sustain those methods. At the same time, culling the herd, whether it’s done by sharpshooters or local recreational hunters has engendered its own set of critics.