With the “nuisance” bow hunting season under way, the Deer & Tick Committee is seeking more people to participate between now and the end of the March.
Nuisance hunting helps communities overrun with deer by allowing special licenses, also known as deer damage permits, issued by the New York State Department of Conservation. Those qualifying for the special licenses are individual farm owners, for example, or municipalities, which can then designate an agent to hunt.
Nuisance hunting here on certain town-managed properties hasn’t contributed in a major way to the tallies for the full hunting season, according to Police Chief Jim Read.
That’s because there are fewer sites that can be hunted, the chief added. But it’s also the result of many hunters, active during the regular season that started in October, are now “spent,” committee Secretary Jennifer Beresky said. Severe winter weather also tends to diminish the number of hunters interested in participating in the nuisance hunt.
Numbers emanating from the nuisance hunt “may not meet your expectations,” Chief Read told the committee at its February 4 meeting.
At Mashomack Preserve, the number of deer remaining is so low there isn’t a nuisance hunt taking place there this year, according to committee Chairman Mike Scheibel, who is Mashomack’s natural resources manager.
While no one has a take on deer population on the Island, he estimated the number of fawns at Mashomack were up 22 percent this year over last. That number is more of an indication of overall population, he said. He reported 129 deer taken during the regular hunting season, up from 83 last year, with does accounting for 60 percent of the kills.
The remaining deer population at Mashomack — two to three deer per square mile — is within what’s considered a manageable range. Committee member Marc Wein repeated his contention that it’s important to get a handle on deer population throughout the Island, saying that unless at least 40 percent are being culled, the efforts to diminish the herd are failing since more deer are being born than are eliminated.
He asked for a three-year tally on both the number of deer culled and the number being butchered. Ms. Beresky has promised to provide that report to the committee.
If harvest numbers aren’t increasing, then efforts to cull the herd aren’t working, said committee member James Colligan.
If the committee determines that 4-posters aren’t sufficiently effective to justify the cost — about $100,000 a year — then greater efforts to cull the herd must be undertaken, he said.
“I joined this committee to solve a problem,” Mr. Colligan said.
“We are learning as we go,” Chief Read said. It’s possible that the committee will find its overall efforts aren’t working and have to seek other means to come to a solution, he added.
Does that mean enlisting sharpshooters next year?
No member is willing to endorse that tactic. Hiring sharpshooters would result in having “a war on this Island,” Mr. Colligan warned.
When it was mentioned in the past, local hunters voiced strong opposition and residents expressed fear that it could result in injuries or worse since the sharpshooters wouldn’t be familiar with the Island.
The committee is waiting for more information on East Hampton Village’s sterilization program carried out by the Connecticut-based White Buffalo organization in January.
Early numbers showed 114 does spayed during a 10-day period, representing about 60 percent of the females in the herd, according to White Buffalo founder and President Anthony DiNicola.
Plans are under way to do another round of sterilization in East Hampton.