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Tempers flare over extending deer hunt

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/STOCK A deer and her fawns.
PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/STOCK A deer and her fawns.

The idea of extending the deer hunting season by one month touched off a heated exchange at the July 6 Deer & Tick Committee meeting.

It began when member Marc Wein said his neighbors at a recent Ram Island Neighborhood Association meeting voted 51 to 2 to request allowing deer damage permits — special allowances allowed by the state to hunt out of season for properties or municipalities overrun with deer — from the day after Labor Day until the end of September. An alternative idea was to extend the hunt through April instead of ending it on March 31.

But Ram Island resident and committee member Henry Amann angrily challenged Mr. Wein’s numbers, insisting that his colleague was misrepresenting the vote.

He and others who own property in the Osprey Acres area of Ram Island object to any extension of hunting, Mr. Amann said. He said the vote that Mr. Wein had referred to was 25 for and five opposed to a test culling project in the area.

At the same time, Mr. Amann raised the issue of liability should anyone be injured during either April or September when the Island’s population is higher than it is during the winter months.

Who would be responsible for a hunting accident — the property owner or the town, Mr. Amann asked.

There was no clear answer.

While most of the committee favors the stepped-up effort over the past year to increase the deer cull and the committee as a whole continues to back a three-pronged approach to deer and tick management — culling the herd, ongoing use of 4-posters and education for community members — Mr. Amann and Mr. Wein remain at polar opposites of the debate.

Mr. Wein wants a follow-up study of 4-posters — feeding stands that brush deer with a tickicide, permethrin — to determine whether permethrin is effective and safe, given that some communities have abandoned use of the devices.

Mr. Amann favors 4-posters with less emphasis on culling, convinced the units have been the most effective tool in reducing the incidence of tick-borne diseases.

Police Chief Jim Read, whose department oversees the Island’s deer management program, is in favor of expanding the deer damage permit seasons. He believes the expansion could provide a sense of whether the slightly longer season is an effective means of culling a larger number of deer in more areas of Shelter Island.

The Police Department has filed for deer damage permits as an agent for properties privately owned but managed for hunting by the town, Chief Read said. The town manages about 15 such sites, but not all are open to hunting during the deer damage permit season, he said.

He continues to try to enlist more property owners to open their land to hunting.

Chief Read suggested a subcommittee, including Mr. Wein and Mr. Amann, be formed to survey Ram Island residents before moving forward. But Committee Chairman Mike Scheibel said he saw no reason to create a subcommittee. Instead, he said Chief Read and Animal Control Officer Beau Payne, who handles the hunt on town-managed lands, would be the best decision-makers on whether and where a deer damage permit project should take place.

“If you’re serious about increasing the deer taken, you should consider using the tool you have more effectively,” Mr. Payne told the committee.

But Councilman Jim Colligan, a Town board liaison to the committee, said he thought any extension to the deer damage permit season could raise safety concerns.

The committee generally agreed that if the season were to be expanded, it should be limited to bow hunting.