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State slashes Shelter Island’s 4-poster money

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | Placing the permethrin-soaked rollers onto the feeding stand of a 4-poster unit. Funding from Albany was cut for the tick-prevention devices.
AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | Placing the permethrin-soaked rollers onto the feeding stand of a 4-poster unit. Funding from Albany was cut for the tick-prevention devices.

New York State has allocated $100,000 to defray the cost of deploying and maintaining 4-poster units to combat tick-borne diseases in past years, but the 2016 allocation has been slashed to $25,000.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty announced the cut at the July 6 Deer & Tick Committee meeting.

What this means to the town’s ongoing deployment of 4-posters — feeding stands that brush deer with a tickicide, permethrin — will be revealed at budget time this fall, Mr. Dougherty said in an emailed response to a question after the meeting.

“I personally am firmly committed to keeping our future 4-poster deployment at current levels as critical to the health of my fellow Shelter Islanders and am confident I can find the money to carry on the very important current 4-poster deployment,” he wrote.

The cutbacks in state money for the units is something that has concerned the supervisor since questions have been raised by some people about the long-term affect and safety of the ongoing use of permethrin.

Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) hasn’t yet responded to an inquiry about why he thinks the state money was cut so sharply.

After the meeting, Deer & Tick Committee member Marc Wein reminded the supervisor that the committee had previously approved a resolution asking the New York State Department of Health to classify tick-borne diseases as a “health emergency.” He suggested Mr. Dougherty and the Town Board take the lead in pushing for funding to address the health emergency as another means of loosening up money from the state.

Noting that he has been invited by County Legislator Bridget Fleming to join a reconstituted Deer & Tick Task Force that was formed by her predecessor, Jay Schneiderman, Mr. Dougherty said he would carry that idea forward.

Shelter Island began using the units as part of a pilot program launched by Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension in 2008. That program lasted three years during which 60 units were deployed around the Island.

But when the program ended, the town curtailed the number of units deployed and experienced an increase in the number of ticks being counted through tick drags, a process of systematically dragging a flannel cloth through a field and recording the data.

The town has gradually increased its deployment to 31 units and another six privately funded at Mashomack Preserve, with better results. But in the past couple of years, there has been a leveling off of the number of ticks recorded.

According to figures released at the July 6 Deer & Tick Committee meeting, tick drags at the beginning of the trial in 2008 were averaging 440 lone star nymphs, which dropped to 18 by the end of the three-year trial in 2010. Numbers fluctuated between 31 to 57 for subsequent years with a showing of 52 for the latest drag in June.

The reason for measuring the lone star nymphs is that insect at that stage is the number one transmitter of disease, Deer & Tick Committee Chairman Mike Scheibel said, quoting Dr. Scott Campbell, a committee member and Laboratory Director for the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

Dr. Campbell, who often participates in meetings via phone, was not at the July meeting either in person or by phone.

At Mashomack Preserve, where tick drag numbers for the lone star nymphs has been as high as 215 in 2013, up from 62 the previous year. The drag this June was at 86, a slight increase from the drag a year ago.

Mr. Scheibel characterized the latest statistics as “generally good.”

As for consumption of corn by deer and other animals at the 4-poster units from 2014 through this year, Animal Control Officer Beau Payne said numbers are about the same as they were at this time in 2015.

Of course, corn consumption is not only related to the animals eating at the stations, but the number of units deployed.

In 2011, when the town took over the program from Cornell, it could afford to deploy and maintain only 20 units. That rose gradually to a high of 38 by 2015, including the units at Mashomack.

Committee members are still looking for an optimal number of units to cover the Island.