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Wein plan would concentrate on culling deer herd

JULIE LANE PHOTO Marc Wein wants a sharp turnaround in spending by the Deer & Tick Committee to put most money to work culling the herd.

JULIE LANE PHOTO
Marc Wein wants a sharp turnaround in spending by the Deer & Tick Committee to put most money to work culling the herd.

Deer & Tick Committee member Marc Wein wants to reshuffle the allocation of money that has 95 percent of the budget paying for 4-poster deployment and servicing.He appealed to committee members Wednesday morning to turn the formula upside down and  direct 60 percent of the approximate $100,000 to culling the herd, 30 percent to deployment and maintenance of 4-poster units and 10 percent to public education.

In a fiery session, his colleagues didn’t disagree with Mr. Wein in theory. But Police Chief Jim Read said in all the months he has attended the meetings, he has yet to hear a plan that would be both legal and successful in putting $60,000 to work in culling.

Member Jim Colligan, agreeing more deer need to be killed, called Mr. Wein’s proposal “more revolution than evolution” and said he needs time to study the plan before taking any action.

In the past year, the committee has spent $4,000 on incentives to local hunters, but that effort is an indirect means of getting the hunters to increase their efforts. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation prohibits direct pay to hunters to kill a specific number of deer.

At the same time, the members agreed with Mr. Wein’s statement that there’s a need to increase the deer cull using local hunters if they’re to successfully decrease the incidence of tick-borne diseases on Shelter Island.

“If we don’t find our unique solution we will be plagued with our plague,” Mr. Wein said, referring to ongoing tick-borne diseases.

He initially suggested a public meeting in July. But after this week’s meeting said he would like residents who favor more money being spent on the deer cull to come to the committee’s next meeting, typically held on the first Wednesday of each month at 10 a.m. at Town Hall.

The deer population on Shelter Island is so high that it’s unlikely the use of 4-posters could successfully eradicate diseases, Mr. Wein said, referencing a conversation with Dominick Ninivaggi, Superintendent of the Suffolk County Department of Public Works Vector Control Division.

He also referenced a 2014 study on Cape Cod that concluded that use of 4-posters had reduced black-legged ticks by only 8.5 percent, saying the brief report concluded the number was much lower than had been expected.

And he said he had a recent conversation with Governor Andrew Cuomo in which the governor said the town would need to make greater efforts to bring off-Island hunters here to effectively cull the herd and reduce disease.

Suffolk County Department of Health Lab Director Dr. Scott Campbell, a committee member, said he believes that the 4-posters are effective, but that a combination of solutions need to be employed to combat tick-borne diseases.

When Shelter Island had 60 units in the years they were part of a pilot program conducted by Cornell Cooperative Extension and Cornell University, the incidence of tick-borne diseases dropped and it increased when the town took over the program and cut the units to 15. That’s why the town has been increasing the number of units, Dr. Scott  said.

While Mr. Wein said Islanders have been troubled with tick-borne diseases for too long, Police Chief Jim Read said there’s no appetite on the Island for eradicating the herd. That was done on Fishers Island, a part of Southold Town; Jekyll Island in Georgia; and Mohegan Island, off the coast of Maine, Mr. Wein said.

But he said he wasn’t suggesting eradicating the entire herd, but cutting it down to 80 to 100 deer and then taking steps to maintain that level.

Mr. Wein ran into opposition when he said that between the permethrin on 4-posters and people spraying their yards, there could be thousands of gallons of the tickicide “seeping into our aquifer.”

The National Pesticide Information Center refutes that, maintaining that when permethrin  enters  an  aquatic  system, “some  is  degraded  by sunlight, but the majority binds tightly to sediment and is broken down without infecting the water.

“The  average half-life  range  for  permethrin  in  the  water  column  is  about  19 to 27 hours,” according to the information the center furnished. Tickicide that’s absorbed by sediments could last more than a year but wouldn’t affect the water quality, according to the center.

“Permethrin is not likely to contaminate groundwater due to its low water solubility and strong adsorption to soil,” according to the center information.

Nonetheless, when Deputy Town Clerk Sharon Jacobs during an earlier part of the meeting, told the committee she no longer eats venison because of the use of the tickicide, Mr. Wein pointed to her statement as typical of what he has heard from others.

He said it may not be true, but it is the perception many Islanders have. He suggested that use of the poison that coats rollers on the 4-posters so that deer will have the tickicide rubbed on their necks as they feed at the unit has discouraged some hunters from culling more deer. They don’t want to handle the animals, he said.

Ms. Jacobs said records of hunters seeking permits during the January shotgun season show a diminished number — from about 400 prior to deployment of 4-posters to 136 this year after the deployment.

Mr. Wein said the town spends $57,000 on feed to attract the deer to the 4-posters and said for every  10 deer feeding at the 4-posters this year, there will be 15 to 20 next year if the town continues with its present approach.

Chief Read said he thinks there have been fewer cases of tick-borne diseases in the last couple of years since the town increased the number of 4-posters being deployed. There are 31 units throughout the town and another six at Mashomack Preserve.

The option shouldn’t be to use sharpshooters or pay outside hunters to cull the herd while asking local hunters to tackle the effort for free, Mr. Wein said.

He advocated forming a subcommittee to explore ways of increasing the deer cull and suggested there need to be conversations with state DEC officials about changing laws to allow improved incentives to hunters.

While agreeing with the need to find a way to increase the deer cull, Mr. Colligan said the committee needs to further explore the effectiveness of 4-posters.

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