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Deer & Tick spending rankles supervisor

JIM COLLIGAN PHOTO

JIM COLLIGAN PHOTO

When Deer & Tick Committee representatives come before the Town Board at budget hearings in October, they may be in for a battle.

The committee is currently looking at a budget proposal of $167,750, up from $154,000 last year, or an increase of 5.86 percent. But it’s not the total that’s troublesome for some.

The committee voted 6-1 at the September 6 meeting to spend $20,000 more than allocated in the current year’s budget on a pilot program aimed at increasing the number of female deer culled from the herd.

The program uses local hunters with special licenses that pay them for every female deer culled during February and March in what’s called the “Deer Damage Permit” season. Deer damage hunting helps communities overrun with deer by allowing special licenses issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to hunt outside the regular hunting seasons. Those hunters who qualify for the special licenses could be paid between $200 and $250 per female deer killed.

The extra $20,000 for the deer management program would move that line item to $31,900, still much less than is allocated for deployment and maintenance of 4-poster units. But Supervisor Jim Dougherty expressed his displeasure that additional money was being recommended for culling while the budget for 4-posters wasn’t increasing.

The money allocated for 4-posters includes a proposed $52,000 for corn to bait the units, $16,000 for maintenance, and other incidental costs.

The supervisor has been a fervent supporter of 4-posters, which for two years in a row netted the town $100,000 of state money, and another $25,000 was received to support the units in the current year’s budget.

“You’re not increasing 4-posters by even one unit?” Mr. Dougherty asked. “You have money to spend, but you won’t spend it on 4-posters,” he said, shaking his head with obvious displeasure.

“That’s amazing.”

During the 2008-2011 Cornell University-Cornell Cooperative Extension pilot program, there were 60 4-posters deployed — 40 around the town and 20 at Mashomack Preserve. Currently, there are 37 units deployed with six on those being paid for out of the Mashomack Preserve budget.

Only committee member Hank Amann voted against the extra money to cull the herd. He told his colleagues he would not support the budget request to the Town Board if it contains the $20,000 allocation.

Animal Control Officer Beau Payne said it’s widely accepted that 40 to 45 percent of adult does must be harvested each year to offset the number of fawns being born, and that only maintains the status quo. On Shelter Island, about 33 percent of does are being taken, meaning the deer population is increasing each year.

The DEC must approve the sites where deer can be taken in February and March. Those are generally not the town-managed sites used by recreational hunters, but may be neighborhoods where only skilled hunters are allowed and where neighbors agree to allow them to shoot.

Paulette Van Vranken led a group at the meeting who peppered the committee asking why they weren’t increasing the number of 4-poster units. Ms. Van Vranken was on the town’s original Deer & Tick Committee several years ago and said that with the “right number” of 4-posters deployed, ticks could be reduced by 95 percent.

She suggested payments of $10 per household per year or an increase in beach permit fees to cover the cost of deploying more units.

But Mr. Scheibel said the current culling and 4-poster deployment is not proving to be enough and more needs to be done to reduce the herd. His aim, he said, would be to continue the 4-poster deployment with the hope that at some point the units won’t be necessary.

There were questions from the audience about birth control methods, to which Mr. Wood replied that it takes longer and is three times more expensive than culling the herd.

Mr. Payne, who has participated in an effort using birth control methods called it “extremely labor intensive,” but noted it has been used for about 20 years in Hastings-on-Hudson. He’s waiting for an updated report from that community on how effective it’s been.

“This is as humane as we can get,” Mr. Wood said about the current efforts being undertaken on Shelter Island.

There are currently four specially licensed hunters on the Island. Mr. Payne also holds a special permit.

Additional hunters who want to take the test necessary for the special license have an opportunity this month and may also elect to access it online, Mr. Payne said.

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