After much debate and some rancor in the past year, the Deer & Tick Committee made it clear at its September meeting Wednesday morning that it’s ready to emphasize culling the herd in its budget request for 2016.“Shelter Island is in the cockpit on this important, important issue,” Supervisor Jim Dougherty told the committee, noting that both the county and state are watching what happens here with an eye to tackling the health crisis caused by tick borne diseases.
Mr. Dougherty was instrumental in getting a $100,000 state grant in the past and is optimistic that another will follow to cover much of the cost of 4-poster units.
The units are feeding stand that brush deer with a chemical, permethrin, that kills ticks.
But while not rejecting the efficacy of the 4-posters, the committee agreed to put a sizable amount of money toward culling the deer herd if it gains support from the Town Board during budget hearings slated to begin in October.
With relatively little discussion, the committee agreed to ask the Town Board to allocate $142,000 for deer and tick management in 2016.
This budget request to the Town Board represents a $20,000 increase in spending compared to this year’s allocation and puts added emphasis on culling the deer herd.
An agreement among members to eliminate a planned $7,000 allocation for aerial inspections to assess deer counts bit the dust rapidly. All agreed that a review of earlier photos reflected inaccurate counts. But Committee Chairman Mike Scheibel said technology is improving and at some future date it might be worth trying again.
For 2016, the $7,000 would be added to an $18,000 allocation for deer reduction management, bringing that budget line to $25,000 if the Town Board agrees.
That’s a marked increase from the $8,000 allocated in the current budget for deer culling. Most of that money has been used in the past to pay incentives to hunters through a lottery system.
But while endorsing the increase, Police Chief Jim Read said the committee needs to talk about exactly how the added money would be used.
“We never get to ‘the how’ sometimes,” Chief Read said, pressing his colleagues to come up with specific action plans for an effective cull.
Committee member Marc Wein, who has led the effort to shift money from 4-poster units to deer culling, expressed pleasure with the added budget, noting that much of the money for the 4-posters is expected to come from New York State.
One means might be to hire a local hunter or hunters with wildlife control licenses to handle the cull rather than to bring in outside sharpshooters.
But the committee agreed to seek advice from Mr. Anthony DeNicola at White Buffalo, a wildlife management company, on how to best organize a hunt on Shelter Island.
Mr. Scheibel promised to try to arrange a meeting with the committee sometime in late September with Mr. DeNicola in order to flesh out a plan for training and rewarding those local hunters who might participate in such an effort.
Islanders have shunned sharpshooters. The only East End community to use them in the past year was Southold, reporting a disappointing return on its investment.
The committee is hoping local hunters, who receive enough of an incentive to take on the task, might prove effective on the Island.
Chief Read reminded the committee that it could opt to pay a daily rate to hunters in such a program, but can’t pay per deer killed under regulations set by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
The Shelter Island Association has often taken the lead on such efforts and representatives from other neighborhood associations generally attend its meetings and look to it for leadership, Mr. Colligan said.
Neighborhood associations wanting to contribute to funding could do so by providing money to the town that’s earmarked for the Deer & Tick Committee expenses, Mr. Dougherty said.
The committee is also planning to increase spending on community education, including the possibility of creating its own website. Currently, information on deer and tick issues appears on the Police Department’s website, not a place residents might typically look for such information, Chief Read said.
That part of the budget would increase from $2,500 to $5,500 with Town Board approval.