What’s certain in Shelter Island’s ongoing effort to decrease tick-borne diseases is the debate will continue between those who favor use of 4-poster units — feeding stands that brush deer with the tickicide permethrin — and those who want a serious culling of the herd.
What’s also clear is that while the Deer & Tick Committee favors a study of the long-range use of the tickicide permethrin, it won’t be funded through government grants any time soon. The town has put an emphasis on seeking grants to increase water quality and upgrade septic systems, Councilman Jim Colligan told the committee at its March 2 meeting, at the expense of other projects
Member Marc Wein continued to argue for an assessment of the safety and long-range effect of permethrin.
Committee Chairman Mike Scheibel reiterated his belief that recreational hunters would never be able to take the number of deer necessary to significantly decrease deer on the Island.
There’s a need for professional hunters to reduce the herd to 12 or fewer deer per square mile, Mr. Scheibel said.
An agreement was reached by the committee to encourage the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to reverse its stance prohibiting paying a bounty for killing deer.
“Recreational hunting was never designed to reduce the herd,” Mr. Scheibel said, and called again for professional sharpshooters.
By a vote of 3-1, the four members attending of the current six-member committee voted to ask the Town Board to pass a resolution recommended by Mr. Wein that Supervisor Jim Dougherty could take to the East End Supervisors and Mayors Association (EESMA) and the Suffolk County Tick Management Task Force, endorsing direct payment for deer kills because it is a “health emergency.”
In introducing the resolution, Mr. Wein said a pay-to-cull policy should be treated in the same way as other serious animal related health issues.
Mr. Dougherty is chairman of the EESMA and a member of the county’s task force.
Voting against the resolution was Hank Amann, a strong backer of 4-posters. His concern is that even if the deer population could be reduced in a major way, ticks would feed off other animals such as raccoons, mice and birds.
Dr. Scott Campbell, a committee member and laboratory director of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, said that has never been found to be the case. He pointed to Plum Island, where the deer population was practically eradicated and few ticks are present.
As for the vote to encourage a change in the DEC ban on paying hunters to kill deer, Chuck Tiernan voted in favor of the resolution, but had called in to the meeting so his vote was cancelled. The only way his vote could have legally counted was if his whereabouts had been advertised in advance as required under New York State’s Open Meetings Law. Jackie Black was absent from the meeting.
Mr. Dougherty told the committee he had met with County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac) who will seek money to help the town in its war against tick-borne diseases.
The Town Board has vetted two candidates for the newly created position of wildlife manager — the only two from the existing Civil Service list who expressed interest in the job. Neither currently lives on Shelter Island and both understood that they would have to move here if they accepted the post.
But because only two names surfaced from the list, the town is now free to advertise locally for a Shelter Island resident.
The wildlife manager would be free to hunt during the winter “nuisance season.” 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.
Other responsibilities for the new wildlife manager includes coordinating the activities of the Deer & Tick Committee, including deployment and maintenance of 4-posters.
The appointment could be made by the end of April. Public Works Department employee Nick Ryan will continue to handle deployment and maintenance of the 4-posters until the new person is trained.