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Deer manager issue is aired at meeting

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO |  Police Chief Jim Read responding to a question from a hunter at the Deer & Tick Committee meeting Tuesday evening.
BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Police Chief Jim Read responding to a question from a hunter at the Deer & Tick Committee meeting Tuesday evening.

One of the Island’s most outspoken opponents of 4-poster units — feeding stands that brush deer with a tickicide — told the Deer & Tick Committee Tuesday night he was also opposed to hiring a wildlife manager.

It would be unfair, Richard Kelly said, to consider paying the manager $50,000 annually to control the deer population when he and other hunters would be killing deer for free.

Mr. Kelly estimated he spends about $1,000 a year buying arrows and other equipment to hunt deer.

The town has a lottery system that hunters enter that can result in sporting goods gift certificates of $100 to $200.

Police Chief Jim Read, who is in charge of the deer management program for the town, answered Mr. Kelly’s concerns, explaining that a wildlife manager would spent only 5 to 10 percent of his time hunting.

The salary would cover approximately $30,000 currently being allocated for the deployment and maintenance of the 4-poster units by Public Works Department employee Nick Ryan. Another $13,000 is already being spent for a part-time animal control officer and $7,000 is in the committee’s budget for culling the herd.

While the Town Board is generally in favor of the plan, a firm decision to hire a wildlife manager hasn’t yet been made, Committee Chairman Mike Scheibel said.

The appointment would have to be made from the Civil Service list. Candidates would also need a Department of Environmental Conservation Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator’s permit. Beau Payne told his fellow hunters it’s relatively easy to get the permit.

“It sounds like a whole lot of politics to me,” Mr. Kelly said.

No one among the half dozen hunters who attended the meeting expressed opposition to the town’s willingness to have Anthony DeNicola of White Buffalo — a nonprofit wildlife management organization — train local hunters as sharpshooters to cull the herd.

“You can always learn a little bit more from somebody,” Mr. Scheibel said, while complimenting the hunters on their skills.

He and Chief Read provided statistics on deer kills over several years with Mr. Scheibel noting that an increase in deer taken could indicate hunters’ efficiency, or it could mean there are simply more deer to kill. Whatever the case, the Island’s deer population is nowhere near the eight to 10 deer per square mile considered optimum to have a herd under control, according to committee member Jim Colligan.

Mr. Colligan called for more tick drags — the process of counting ticks by dragging a white cloth in an area to estimate the tick population — done both in the vicinity of 4-posters and in areas where there are none.

“I think you’ve got to count the deer,” Mr. Kelly said.

If there were an accurate way to get a reliable deer count, the town would be using it, Mr. Colligan responded.

Methods to  count deer, Mr. Scheibel said, include observations of plant life that are showing continuing damage from feeding animals, anecdotal information from Island doctors who have reported seeing mounting numbers of patients reporting tick bites,  plus statistics on deer-vehicle accidents,

Chief Read has seen a decline in reported accidents, but couldn’t say if it’s a trend signalling lower numbers of deer on the Island.

Bow hunter Bruce Raheb and his friend Peter Mulligan reported hunting here in the last week but saw only a few deer. At the same time, Mr. Raheb noted one problem hunters face — not enough butchers to handle carcass and packaging meat to be taken to the freezers at the Recycling Center where residents can pick up the venison.

He suggested the town consider paying to fix a freezer owned by hunter Darren Binder so carcasses could be brought there and later retrieved for butchering.

Chief Read said the town would like to have more butchers, noting it’s prepared to pay $75 apiece for butchering services and could possibly raise that fee to $100 per carcass.