Determined to protect the community from what it sees as an increasing health crisis posed by disease-carrying ticks, the Deer & Tick Committee agreed Wednesday morning to reach out to local recreational hunters to more effectively reduce the deer herd.
At the same time, the committee is back to exploring the possibility of hiring a manager to coordinate the three-pronged program of 4-posters, culling the deer herd and educating the public.
Hunter Beau Payne agreed to help organize a meeting with hunters at Town Hall on September 16 at 7 p.m. to enlist their ideas about ways to sharply reduce deer on the Island.
“I’m a hunter. I’m not a killer,” Mr. Payne told the committee, explaining that he shoots deer his family and friends will consume, but isn’t motivated to kill deer for sport.
“I pass up more deer than I shoot,” Mr. Payne said.
He added that nothing has united the local hunting community as effectively as hearing the committee was considering bringing sharpshooters to the Island in the past year.
But he described trying to unite hunters in an effort to increase the deer cull here as “like trying to herd cats.” Hunters play it close the vest with one another, not freely disclosing how many deer they have taken, he said. They also seek to sustain the deer herd for their own and their children’s future hunting.
“We need to break down these barriers” between hunters and the police and town officials, committee member Jim Colligan said. “It’s protecting the health of every human being” that’s critical, “not a hatred for deer,” Mr. Colligan said.
“Without the hunters, we have nothing,” said Committee Chairman Mike Scheibel.
If the goal is to cull the herd to numbers of eight to 10 deer per square mile, that’s probably not something recreational hunters are likely to do, Mr. Payne said. At the same time, he said he’s not sure what a realistic number would be for the hunters.
Another concern the committee has is a temporary restraining order on issuing nuisance permits allowing hunters to extend the season through February and March 2015. The order came when several groups — the Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island, the Animal Welfare Institute, Hunters for Deer, Long Island Orchestrating for Nature and The Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center, as well as a handful of residents — obtained a temporary court order restraining an effort to limit the deer cull.
If the order isn’t lifted in time for the February and March nuisance permits to be issued, that would hinder the town’s efforts, Mr. Scheibel said.
The town is awaiting forms from the New York State Department of Health pertaining to the $100,000 Senator Kenneth LaValle promised Shelter Island. But just how that money can be spent isn’t yet clear, Supervisor Jim Dougherty said.
While admitting he isn’t sure how he feels about the idea, Councilman Ed Brown returned to the subject of hiring a deer and tick manager to oversee the program. With $97,500 expected from town coffers and $100,000 from the state, there could be money for a manager as well as to deploy 37 4-poster units, expand the cull and enhance public education.
Committee member Jackie Black promised her colleagues she would work with someone she knows to design possible newspaper advertisements to foster the educational process. At the same time, there was a push from Mr. Dougherty and Police Chief Jim Read to post a white paper on the deer and tick problems on the town website.