If there is a single fact that emerges as a surprise from the recent survey conducted by the town’s Deer & Tick Committee, it’s that 72 percent of respondents said they would favor Shelter Island paying professionals to reduce deer density.
Deer & Tick Committee Chairman Mike Scheibel — along with many others in government and out — long speculated that Islanders would have no appetite for using hunters who are not local.
The report was presented at Tuesday’s Town Board work session by Animal Control Officer Beau Payne, who called the response of about one third of the 3,688 people who received the survey “phenomenal.”
Surveys went to all post office box holders on the Island and all taxpayers, some of whom are part-time residents. The committee received 1,210 responses. Of those, 41 percent said they were full-time Island residents while 57 percent were part-timers.
Only 16 percent of the 1,210 respondents to the survey said they would object to hiring professionals to cull the herd. Another 12 percent were undecided.
Police Chief Jim Read, who oversees the culling effort, said that some who answered the question affirmatively didn’t necessarily see it as an effort by professional hunters to shoot deer, but may have interpreted the question to imply trained and licensed personnel might use other means, such as contraception or sterilization, to reduce deer density.
The debate between those who favor more money being spent on culling the herd and those who prefer more use of 4-poster units — feeding stands that brush deer with a tickicide, permethrin — found supporters from both sides.
A whopping 82 percent of respondents said they support recreational hunting to control deer density.
In the ongoing effort to identify more properties that could be hunted, the survey found four out of 10 respondents said they would allow hunting on their properties.
More than half of those responding (53 percent) supported the use of 4-poster units, saying they are effective and safe and more than 25 percent of those supporting their use believe they are cost effective.
The 27 percent who didn’t support 4-posters said they were ineffective, raised environmental concerns and were too expensive. But another 20 percent were undecided on the issue.
Ninety-five percent of respondents said there is a tick problem on the Island as evidenced by several factors, including removing ticks from themselves and their family members, being treated for tick-borne diseases and seeing property damage to their vegetation.
With so many people caring about the issue, Mr. Payne encouraged the Town Board to appreciate the number of people who took the time to respond to the survey and consider that 77 percent said they would favor increasing funding to expand the war against tick-borne illnesses. Only 12 percent said no with 10 percent not responding to that question.
Residents at the work session questioned the possibility of increasing the number of 4-posters to the 60-unit level that existed during the 2008-2010 Cornell University-Cornell Cooperative Extension pilot program on the Island. Mr. Payne noted that with there are six units deployed and funded by Mashomack Preserve and 31 units deployed on the rest of the Island,
“Obviously, these devices do work,” Councilman Jim Colligan said, noting, as Mr. Payne had, that tick drags are the method of determining the tick population in any given area.
Supervisor Jim Dougherty said he’s been speaking with State Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) about continued support for the Island’s 4-poster program.
But he may have surprised some when he announced that he’s hoping that the state funding might allow town officials to determine how funds are used. Past grants have been earmarked for 4-poster units, he said.
He has also been talking with Southold officials about their recent deployment of quail to eat ticks in that town. He said the quail cause no harmful effects and that he might like to see a pilot project on the Island.
For a complete view of the survey results, visit the town’s webiste at shelterislandtown.us.