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Deer & Tick Chairman: Don’t count out sharpshooters

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | Deer in a Silver Beach backyard.
AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | Deer in a Silver Beach backyard.

While several surrounding East End towns have rejected sharpshooters as a means of culling the deer herd, the chairman of Shelter Island’s Deer and Tick Committee said he doesn’t think Shelter Island should rule out any means of controlling deer.

“Recreational hunting is a very valuable tool in controlling deer,” Mike Scheibel said. But there are areas where it’s not safe or legal to allow recreational hunters and those areas might benefit from the use of professional, U.S. Department of Agriculture sharpshooters, he said.

Mr. Scheibel is aware many Island residents and hunters don’t want sharpshooters on the Island, with some concerned about safety and others objecting on humane grounds. But he thinks there are fewer protestors to professionally culling the herd because of the high numbers of motor vehicle crashes caused by deer and an increase in the past year of people suffering from tick-borne diseases.

Mike Scheibel said the committee will also be looking at studies of deer sterilization, but he’s not sure that will be a part of Shelter Island’s approach to control the deer population and decrease the infestation of deer ticks.

“We feel it is not a viable alternative at this point,” Mr. Scheibel said.

At the same time, there’s a need for more education here about contraception and sterilization of deer, the wider use of 4-posters to reduce the ticks and the deer culling efforts being used here and elsewhere, he said.

At Mashomack, Mr. Scheibel said 83 deer were killed in January as compared to 72 for the same month last year.

Mr. Scheibel has attended a presentation by Anthony DeNicola, Ph.D., a wildlife biologist and one of the founders of White Buffalo, a Connecticut-based nonprofit, about his groups use of contraception and sterilization of deer in several states.

Using infertility methods requires immunizing does about every three years during their approximately 15-year life cycle. Sterilization requires capturing and sedating them so their ovaries can be removed before they’re returned to the sites from which they came.

Mr. Scheibel said he was “very impressed” by the presentation.

The effectiveness of 4-posters in reducing the tick population continues to be a subject of debate on Shelter Island and in other communities. However, during the three-year period in which 60 4-posters were deployed around the Island in a program funded by New York State, Suffolk County and the town from 2008 through 2011, there was a decline in the numbers of ticks here, according to results provided by Cornell Cooperative Extension and Cornell University that conducted the studies here and on Fire Island.

During the spring and summer of 2012, the town went it alone, deploying only a quarter of the number of 4-posters and the same was true in 2013, with just a few more units deployed. Tests showed a major increase in the tick count here, resulting in plans this year for the town to deploy 34 units and still more being deployed by The Mashomack Preserve.

For Mr. Scheibel, that raises the need to hire a full-time deer management professional to tackle the job now being split among several town workers who already have time-consuming responsibilities.

That request is being further investigated by the Town Board.