The Deer & Tick Committee allocation, while by far not the largest allocation in the town’s spending plan, is second only to the highway department in terms of needing “the most soul-searching,” Supervisor Jim Dougherty said Wednesday.He called the work of the committee “critical” in terms of combatting tick-borne diseases.
Mr. Dougherty’s proposal is for $112,850, $13,600 more than what was allocated for the current 2014 budget.
At issue during Wednesday morning’s budget hearing in Town Hall was whether a proposed $4,000 allocation for deer management, representing only about 3 percent of the committee’s overall budget, should be increased. In the 2014 budget, only $500 was allocated for deer management, but that’s partially because butchering costs came out of a miscellaneous fund and next year would come out of the Deer & Tick Committee money.
Some committee members have had private telephone conversations with the supervisor, arguing for a reshuffling of money, Mr. Dougherty said. But committee chairman Mike Scheibel and Police Chief Jim Read, while supporting some additional money in that line, said no one has come up with a plan for effectively culling the herd.
The $4,000 would likely cover only the cost of butchering deer, both men agreed.
“We don’t know how to spend money on deer management,” Mr. Scheibel said, because, he added, no one has yet to suggest an effective methodology for deer management.
The committee this year offered some incentives to hunters in a raffle program in which they were awarded prizes for their efforts. The DEC prohibits paying hunters to kill deer, but is OK with governments paying for butchering, and finds incentive programs like this year’s acceptable.
That’s expected to go forward, but Shelter Island rejected use of federally trained sharpshooters offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this year.
The program that had only limited success in Southold, Riverhead and Southampton.
“Our best defense is working through local hunters,” Mr. Scheibel said. But at last week’s Deer & Tick Committee meeting, member Marc Wein said it was unfair to expect local hunters to bear the burden for the rest of the town without more incentives.
In response to Mr. Dougherty’s comments about the calls he’s been received asking for more funds to support deer management, Chief Read said. “Our ears are open,” but no one has made a concrete proposal about methodology to cull the herd more effectively, so there’s little on which to spend a lot more money.
“I think we’re holding our own and maybe that’s as good as it gets,” Councilman Paul Shepherd said.
Mr. Dougherty said he’s heard noises about more state money coming to the town for deer control, but isn’t counting on that happening. He also thinks Suffolk County might eventually put money to the program, but not by next year.