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Deer & Tick Committee seeks more money, emphasizes herd cull

JULIE LANE PHOTO The Deer & Tick Committee needs to stop “tiptoeing” around the possibility of bringing in sharpshooters to cull the herd, member Jim Colligan told his colleagues Wednesday.

JULIE LANE PHOTO
The Deer & Tick Committee needs to stop “tiptoeing” around the possibility of bringing in sharpshooters to cull the herd, member Jim Colligan told his colleagues Wednesday.

While Shelter Island Town budget talks won’t start until the fall, the Deer & Tick Committee anticipates asking for a funding increase from $100,000 to $120,000.With an anticipated tax cap of 1.46 percent for the 2016 budget, Supervisor Jim Dougherty warned it would be difficult. Still, a reallocation of funds is likely to put additional emphasis on culling the deer herd, including more money for those who butcher the animals so meat can be distributed through the town’s food locker at the Recycling Center.

More than the $4,000 set aside during the past hunting season could be allocated to increase rewards to hunters who, through a lottery, earn awards for participating in the town program.

The committee could ask for a $7,000 allocation for a fly over to help determine the number of deer on the Island.

Councilman Ed Brown, a liaison to the committee, noted that because of the past winter’s foul weather, the current lottery system may not have realized its full potential.

The committee will see a draft budget proposal from Police Chief Jim Read in August and begin to tweak it before it’s submitted to the Town Board.

Meanwhile, the Ram Island Association could decide relatively soon to remove 4-posters and put money into hiring a company such as Connecticut’s non-profit White Buffalo to cull deer. The aim would be to determine if a professional culling effort could sufficiently reduce the number of deer and reduce tick-borne diseases without the use of 4-posters.

Marc Wein, president of the Ram Island Association and a member of the Deer & Tick Committee, acknowledged that some Ram Island residents have requested a vote on whether to continue the use of 4-posters while others seek a vote on a deer-culling effort conducted by professionals.

Those votes could come within the next week, Mr. Wein said. He denied pushing either resolution among members of the association.

Deer & Tick Committee members agreed a culling effort on that part of the Island could demonstrate whether deer numbers could be sufficiently reduced to stop tick infestations.

“It’s a unique opportunity,” Chief Read said about a culling effort on the Rams. He oversees hunting on town-owned and managed properties during the hunting season and again made a pleas for additional property owners to make land available for hunting to increase the cull.

“We need to cull the herd big time” rather than argue over the effectiveness of 4-posters, committee member Jim Colligan said.

Responding to criticisms of the 4-poster units, he said if people want to see them gone, they need to “jump on the band wagon and get the deer population down now.”

Right now, 4-posters are “a stop gap method” until the deer herd is sufficiently decreased, he said.

While most local hunters object to hiring sharpshooters here, the committee and Town Board remain committed to doing whatever is necessary to increase the number of deer culled from the herd in order to bring the tick-borne disease problem under control.

“We have tiptoed around them,” Mr. Collligan said about the hunters. Use of sharpshooters “needs to remain on the table” as an option and be “seriously considered” if locals hunters and their licensed guests can’t take enough deer to address the problem, he said.

Mr. Wein would also like to see more money allocated for scholarships to ensure hunters are aware of various types of licensing that could enhance their ability to shoot through more of the season.

He questioned whether it’s acceptable to drive deer into an area where they could be taken down more easily.

That’s not acceptable, said committee chairman Mike Scheibel.

“So there’s no driving deer on the Island?” Mr. Wein asked.

“I didn’t say that,” Mr. Scheibel responded, drawing laughter from the committee.

Mr. Wein asked his colleagues to allocate between $5,000 and $10,000 to hire a scientist to collect results of various studies completed since the Cornell University-Cornell Cooperative Extension pilot program in which Shelter Island was among the test sites.

No follow up has been done because of a lack of money, said Dr. Scott Campbell, a committee member and Suffolk County Department of Health Services Lab Director.

He suggested a look at not just the number of units deployed now, but how effectively they cover the Island. During the pilot program, there were redundancies in unit placement so even with fewer units, 37, they might be just as effective.

Mr. Dougherty said the Suffolk County Deer & Tick Task Force, on which he serves, is likely to conduct a study and is looking to the state and federal governments for funding.

The scientific community should be rushing to Shelter Island” to study what’s happening here since the 2008-10 pilot project, Mr. Colligan said.

Mr. Wein also wants a survey among those who have stopped hunting here to determine the reasons. He maintains many have told him the use of the permethrin tickicide on 4-posters prompted them to decide not to hunt. They think the deer meat is tainted, he said.

“I think it’s totally unfounded,” Mr. Scheibel said about that theory.

The committee is two members short since the death of Dr. Vincent DiGregorio in February and the resignation in June of Steve Lenox. The Town Board is still accepting applications from those interested in serving and expects to appoint new members at its July 10 meeting.

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