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Dering Harbor discusses deer culling options

JIM COLLIGAN PHOTO

JIM COLLIGAN PHOTO

In response to complaints from residents about an apparent increase in deer and related damage and disease, the Board of Trustees of the Village of Dering Harbor is weighing options for reducing the local deer herd, including regulated shotgun hunting.

“The deer are out of control on my property,” resident Patrick Parcells told the board at Saturday’s meeting. Mr. Parcells and his wife own two large adjoining properties in the center of the village that are surrounded by a historic beech hedge threatened by browsing deer.

Mayor Tim Hogue said other residents have complained about deer damage and tick-borne illnesses. He and Trustee John Colby met last week with Shelter Island Police Chief Jim Read and Animal Control Officer Beau Payne, who coordinate the Town’s nuisance hunting program under state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regulations.

Currently, the mayor said, the discharge of firearms is not permitted by local law in the Village, and a series of public hearings would likely be required to alter that regulation, but hunting by bow and arrow is possible with permission from property owners.

“This is not just about getting the deer that are already in Dering Harbor,” Mr. Hogue said. “They’re coming over here because the village has become what they call in college now a ‘safe space’ and they’re able to hang out here. So the idea is not just to cull the herd here, but also to drive the herd into places where the deer can be hunted.”

So far this year 14 deer have been taken in Dering Harbor, mostly males, including many juveniles not mature enough to grow antlers.

In season, bow hunting is permitted within 150 feet of a residence, meaning that many of the 30 or so residential properties and seven undeveloped lots in Dering Harbor could support the practice. The shotgun requirement of 500 feet from a residence rules out that form of hunting for all but the largest tracts, Mr. Hogue said, inviting residents to share their views during upcoming meetings about permitting shotgun hunting on those larger properties in the future.

Also discussed was the wording of “No Hunting” signs, which Mr. Hogue pointed out don’t necessarily mean hunting is not permitted on a property — many property owners close their properties to hunting in general but then allow nuisance hunting. Signs at the Mildred Flower Hird Preserve, which is owned jointly by the village, town and Suffolk County, and should be changed to indicate the preserve is public, not private property, said Bridgford Hunt, whose family donated the land.

Residents who want more information about the town’s hunting program can contact Mr. Payne at (631) 749-5771.

In other business, the mayor reported that the village has joined with the town in requesting that the DEC relieve the two municipalities from some obligations related to a draft Municipal Separate Storm Sewage Systems (MS4) permit, arguing that the state is unfairly approaching water quality issues “with a one size fits all mandate.

“It is unrealistic to treat a village like Dering Harbor, with its 10 [year round] residents, the same as the Town of Brookhaven with 500,000 residents,” reads a letter sent by Town Attorney Laury Dowd to the DEC Bureau of Water Permits. The letter points out discrepancies in the state’s own reporting of pollutants in the waterbody Dering Harbor, and demands relief for the town and village from certain regulations. “The amount of monitoring, record-keeping and technical expertise proposed by this permit greatly exceed our staff and our finances,” the letter states.

Trustee Colby, who represents the village on the town’s MS4 committee, encouraged all residents to take note of the issue and asked that a village website be instituted so important documents can be readily shared with homeowners who live elsewhere in the off-season.

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