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Shelter Island town to hire wildlife manager

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Deer & Tick Committee member Hank Amann doesn’t object to efforts to increase the deer cull, but believes 4-poster units will always be necessary to curb the incidence of tick-borne diseases.

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Deer & Tick Committee member Hank Amann doesn’t object to efforts to increase the deer cull, but believes 4-poster units will always be necessary to curb the incidence of tick-borne diseases.

With the unanimous consent of the Deer & Tick Committee, the Town Board is expected to make a provisional appointment early in 2016 of a wildlife and animal control officer to manage the deer population, including culling the herd.

Despite some concerns, the appointee could be in place in time for the nuisance hunting season in February and March.

Because the position — with an annual salary of $50,000 —is a civil service job, there is a question whether a waiting list is already established.

But Supervisor Jim Dougherty told the Deer & Tick Committee December 2 that the town can stipulate that the applicant must be willing to live on Shelter Island full-time. Most town positions require that or give preference to people who are Island residents. There are also cases where a town worker hired while living here can gain special permission to move from the Island.

But given Island housing costs, Mr. Dougherty speculated that only town residents would likely apply for the job.

The applicant would have to be at least 18 years old, pass a civil service test and have a state driver’s license. The appointee would also need hunting, nuisance control and pesticide “category 8” licenses from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

During a November meeting with six hunters, there was one who expressed concern that while he was helping to cull the herd without pay, someone would be paid $50,000 to do the same job.

Committee members noted that the wildlife manager would only be paid to hunt during the nuisance season and have many other responsibilities, such as coordinating hunting and paperwork, plus all the responsibilities currently handled by Police Chief Jim Read, Committee Secretary Jennifer Beresky, Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr. and Nick Ryan, who has been coordinating 4-poster — feeding stands that brush deer with a tickicide — deployment and maintenance,

Other hunters would have several paths to compensation, including being paid to butcher deer, lending their skills to nearby communities if they have nuisance licenses and participating in the lottery system that provides gift cards for sporting goods to those who report deer kills.

“We had such poor returns in February and March” on deer taken, member Jim Colligan said about this year’s hunting. It’s important, he added, to do everything possible to increase the deer cull in those nuisance hunt months in 2016, he said.

The committee’s concentration on culling the herd has many hoping the town can eventually curtail its use of 4-poster units.

Last year and again this year, the town secured $100,000 state grants to support the 4-poster program.

New committee member Hank Amann believes the units must be sustained no matter what happens with the culling effort.

But member Mark Wein said if the cull can be increased this year, he hopes the town might be able to convince the state to provide only $70,000 for 4-poster maintenance next year and put the other $30,000 toward killing deer.

A request from Mr. Wein to look into long term effects of permethrin, the tickicide used on 4-posters, was dismissed by his fellow committee members.

Dr. Scott Campbell, a committee member and Laboratory Director of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, said the Cornell Cooperative-Cornell University program that Shelter Island participated in from 2008 through 2011 dealt with that issue. But Mr. Wein expressed concern about the number of residents who are spraying the tickicide on their properties where children and animals might play.

“How do you stop 400 homeowners from spraying their lawns?” he asked.

Mr. Colligan said that bringing down the deer count and showing a decrease in tick numbers and tick-borne diseases would have that effect.

Still pending is a decision about bringing in White Buffalo — a nonprofit wildlife management organization — to train local hunters the best methods of culling a herd.

Following the committee’s decision to have the town hire a wildlife manager, Chairman Mike Scheibel suggested putting the White Buffalo proposal on hold.

But hunter Beau Payne said the two moves don’t have to be exclusive. There was no decision, but that conversation will likely be reopened in January.

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