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Capturing the public’s attention on ticks

JULIE LANE PHOTO ‘We’re doing absolutely nothing to try to reach the public,’ Deer & Tick Committee member told her colleagues at Wednesday’s meeting.
‘We’re doing absolutely nothing to try to reach the public,’ Deer & Tick Committee member  Jackie Black told her colleagues at Wednesday’s meeting.

Helicopter noise complaints bring out hundreds of East Enders, but serious diseases resulting from tick bites have failed to capture the kind of attention Deer & Tick Committee members consider crucial.Toward that end, the committee agreed at its Wednesday meeting that it has to adopt some of the same strategies being used by those opposing helicopter noise to get public attention.

“We’re doing absolutely nothing to try to reach the public,” committee member Jackie Black said, suggesting a series of advertisements that get the community’s attention.

The town is spending 300 times more deploying and servicing 4-poster units and 40 times more on deer reduction than it’s spending on education, her colleague, Marc Wein, said.

“It seems like this budget is poorly balanced,” Mr. Wein said as the committee discussed possible ways to spend $100,000 expected from New York State and $97,500 likely to be budgeted by the town for 2015.

Newspaper stories don’t have the same effect as getting out and speaking to various groups about the problems, Mr. Wein said. It’s such forums and major email campaigns that have energized the community over helicopter noise, he said.

None of the committee members are critical of the attention helicopter noise has received. On the contrary, they want to borrow a page from the tactics being employed by that group to gain the same kind of attention for what they believe is a growing health crisis fostered by the proliferation of ticks on the Island.

Police Chief Jim Read reminded the committee that while there will be some specific requirements attendant to the state money coming to Shelter Island, it will be up to the members to decide how to best allocate the grant.

Ms. Black, who offered to work with someone she knows to draft  advertisements, said the first focus should be on the importance of hunters in reducing tick numbers.

“I’m behind the local hunters,” Mr. Colligan agreed. “They’re doing us a service,” he said.

But what hunters don’t want to contend with are those who view them as predators and try to interfere with the effort to take down the deer, said Beau Payne, a hunter who has attended a number of the committee’s meetings.

The problem is “people think they’re pets,” Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr. said about the deer.

People need to understand the dangers that too many deer pose by nourishing the disease-carrying ticks that  are causing serious illnesses for an increasing part of the population, committee members agreed.

The Wildlife Services report on the Long Island White-tailed Deer Damage Management Project released by the Long Island Farm Bureau revealed that so few deer were taken by sharpshooters largely because of “unauthorized human activities near shooting zones and bailing sites [that] had a negative impact on the overall success of the program.”

Only 192 deer were taken during the program in Suffolk County that ran from February through April.

“Population levels at or below 20 deer per square mile allow damaged forests to recover undergrowth,” the report concluded.

It estimated the Suffolk County deer population at 25,00 to 36,000 for an average deer density of 27 to 39 deer per square mile, but speculated there are a greater number of deer in the eastern and northwestern parts of the county.

In East Hampton alone, the average density is estimated at more than 51 deer per square mile, according to the report. It offered no estimates for Shelter Island

And while the deer are nourishing the ticks, the increased number of the animals is not only detrimental to vegetation, but to the deer themselves and to other wildlife.

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