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Letters to the Editor: Deer management

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO| Readers weigh in on Shelter Island's deer management program.

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO| Readers weigh in on Shelter Island’s deer management program.

To cull or not to cull
To the Editor:

Deer management is a hot topic here these days, but I have one question: Does culling work?

I’ve been on Shelter Island 10 years and it seems there have been nuisance shoots most years. It didn’t stop me or my husband from getting Lyme disease several times, or my neighbors from getting into horrific collisions with deer that were traumatic for everyone, human and non-human.

We need new solutions, which is why I applaud the 4-poster program, and I applaud Mary Ann Uhnak’s February 6 letter (“Live and let live”) in the Reporter. Mary Ann points to sustainable solutions. Personally I had no tick bites last season. I thank the wild turkeys for that. Would reintroducing pheasant and quail help? The National Science Foundation lists the white-footed mouse as the main carrier of Lyme disease (see: nsf.gov/news/special_reports/ecoinf/lyme.jsp). Could the terrible mange epidemic of a few years back that destroyed our fox population lead to the explosion of our mouse population? Has any of this been explored?

The Audubon Society details a deer management program on Fire Island using birth control (see: archive.audubonmagazine.org/webstories/deer_birth_control.html). The program brought the rate of deer births down to 10 percent and is a great success story. It seems that program worked, and our program isn’t.

Time to move on from killing deer as the solution. It hasn’t worked in the past, and it isn’t working now.
Shelter Island

Them or us
To the Editor:

Some years ago while working as a video editor for the NBC News Boston bureau, I was sent to cover a shooting near Bangor, Maine. A young mother of twins was killed while hanging her laundry on the clothesline in her back yard. Such stories were usually of local interest, but this was the lead story for the network Nightly News that night.

The hunter who shot her said she looked like a deer in his scope from a 100 yards away. The victim was blamed for wearing white gloves and a brown coat, in her back yard. The man who shot her was considered to be a safe and qualified hunter and marksman.

There have been many other hunting accidents but this incident initiated local regulations on hunters across the country. Whether it is a USDA sharpshooter or an experienced local hunter, one mistake, one stray bullet can kill without warning. I urge the Town Board to prohibit all hunting within range of homes and populated areas.

We do need hunters. And we need the deer herd culled, if not eradicated. Our hunters must have all the other tools to get the job done. The Town Board might consider relaxing the code that restricts the height of fences.

The deer are very hungry this time of the year and will begin to eat the “deer proof” plantings in our yards. By fencing in our properties from Labor Day to Memorial Day, the deer will be forced back into the open spaces to forage for food. This will give the hunters more opportunities in safer areas to shoot.

Tick-borne diseases are real and there is no doubt it is a crisis here and on Eastern Long Island. Anyone who believes otherwise is in a stage of denial.

For those who think that it is inhumane to kill tick-infested deer, I can only say that it is more inhumane to allow another child, or anyone, to acquire a devastating tick-borne illness.

When it comes to the deer and the ticks that they host, it is a circumstance of “them or us.” Eradicate the deer now. It is a matter of survival.
Shelter Island

No mass slaughter

To the Editor:

To get right to the point regarding the proposed deer management handling, I fully agree with Mary Ann Uhnak’s assessment of the situation as stated in her February 6 letter to the Reporter. In my 35 full-time years on Shelter Island, I don’t see a drastic increase in deer population or tick problems and, as Ms. Uhnak stated, with some common sense precautions, deer accidents could be reduced as well.

For the town to even consider hiring a full time with car “manager/surveyor/educator/planner/researcher/analyst” is ludicrous. While Chief Read seems to be in favor of hiring help, he also states that “without solid data, there’s no way of knowing the extent of the problem or ways to solve it.” That does not support hiring a full-time employee with benefits and a car! There was no mention of salary, or if this person would be a municipal union member who would then collect additional benefits and probably could not be terminated at will, if it doesn’t work out. This is not a feasible solution financially or otherwise.

With the cooperation of the DEC, it appears to me that the first step in reducing the deer population would be to allow our own local hunters and members of our families who used to live here but now live elsewhere on Long Island, who know Shelter Island and respect our values as opposed to outside sharpshooters, to take deer for a more extended time period — but not with weapon silencers, lights, shooting from truck beds and with unrestricted access to our properties.

I agree with Ms. Uhnak that shrinking habitat for the deer leaves them more exposed and visible, thus creating the illusion that there has been an explosion of their population. Deer used to sleep in our backyard, but are rarely there anymore. We don’t even see as many on the Gardiner’s Bay golf course as we  used to, or around the neighborhood, so where are they? Some herd reduction would be acceptable but not mass slaughter and not at the expense of an additional full-time employee. Hire temporary help, if needed to ease the strain on current employees, or use independent contractors who do not qualify for benefits and use their own vehicle. We have to save money, not spend more of it. Are we copying our state and federal governments? Besides, this is an issue that ought to be brought before our residents for an official vote, or do we also have leaders with “executive power”?
Shelter Island

In praise of Jacki
To the Editor:

I am writing as a mom of Shelter Island School students whose life, once again, was made much, much easier last week by the ever-reliable efforts of Jacki Dunning, Dr. Michael Hynes and the school’s investment in automated communication software several years back.

Snow days are always joyful events, but increasingly in our home, and I suspect in everyones, the logistics-juggling they require can be daunting. I cannot overstate how much I appreciate Dr. Hynes’ willingness to make the hard calls the night before, when possible, as well as the efficiency and immediacy of being notified via phone, email and text.

The real reason I’m writing, however, is to thank Jacki Dunning for being the perfect messenger. It takes a mom to understand that not every family member was jumping up and down when these calls came, three days in a row. And I for one am so grateful for Jacki’s soothing, familiar voice, reminding me at the end of one call to “Have a good evening and remember, there are only 43 more days until spring.”
Shelter Island