Talk of phasing out 4-poster units — feeding stands that brush deer with a tickicide, permethrin — is “undermining” efforts to get financial support from New York State, according to Supervisor Jim Dougherty.
Mr. Dougherty told the Deer & Tick Committee at its May 4 meeting that he anticipates the town will get $100,000 from Albany to subsidize the cost of deployment and maintenance of the units. But discussions through the months among committee members about the effectiveness of the units and long-term safety of permethrin have slowed the process.
The town has secured state grants of $100,000 each of the past two years and needs future funds to support the 31 units currently deployed. Six others are at Mashomack Preserve and paid for by the Nature Conservancy, which own Mashomack.
“It’s not a slam dunk,” Mr. Dougherty said about money to support the program coming from Albany, but added he was optimistic.
On extreme ends of the local debate among committee members are Marc Wein and Henry Amann, with other members generally supporting 4-posters as one tool in the arsenal against the spread of tick-borne diseases.
Mr. Wein has questioned the number of units it would take to adequately cover Shelter Island, noting that some sources he’s read indicate the units are only effective within a short distance of their placement.
He’s also been critical of a lack of follow-up research to show the long-term effects of using permethrin. Shelter Island’s use of the tickicide began in 2008 when it was one of the test sites for the program conducted by Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension.
In February, while the Deer & Tick Committee endorsed 4-posters as one means of dealing with the problem on the Island, it also agreed there should be funding for a follow up study to determine:
• Whether the oil-based low concentration of permethrin is safe as its applied to 4-poster units and whether it’s also safe to spray a water-based permethrin on private properties.
• What other animals are consuming corn meant to lure deer to the 4-poster units?
• Whether deer diets are changing so corn may not be the best food to lure the animals.
Mr. Amann is convinced that since the 4-posters were deployed, there has been a decrease in tick-borne diseases. He continues to express strong opposition to any suggestion that their use be curbed.
But he again raised questions at last weeks’ meeting about concerns that even if all the Island’s deer were eradicated — something no one has embraced — the ticks would still be found on mice and and other animals.
Dr. John Rasweiler — a retired medical school professor and a member of the Suffolk County Tick Control Advisory Committee — maintains the white-footed mouse is a host for ticks that cause Lyme disease, but it’s deer that have caused the increasing tick populations. If the mice could be eliminated, that wouldn’t solve the problem, he said in a recent interview with TimesReview.
Dr. Scott Campbell, a member of the committee and laboratory director of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, has stated that culling the herd to eight deer per square mile would go a long way to managing tick-borne diseases.
At a Suffolk County legislative meeting on the problem last week, the emphasis was mostly on finding ways to cull the herd and educating the public. Both are part of Shelter Island’s approach.