An update on the Island’s efforts to reduce the deer population through hunting reopened a debate on how money should be allocated to try to decrease the incidence of tick-borne diseases.
At the February 1 meeting of the Deer & Tick Committee, Animal Control Officer Beau Payne reported that 42 hunters were active during the recreational deer hunting season that concluded at the end of January. Of those, 37 took at least one deer.
That’s “way more” hunters than have been in active in recent years, Mr. Payne said.
As for the harvest, he called it “about tied” with last year’s take, but offered no specific numbers.
He said the deer killed results in “keeping things in check right now.”
But committee member Marc Wein argued that with no idea how many deer are on the Island, there’s no way anyone could know if the deer herd is “in check.” For that reason, he suggested another $1,000 be allocated for incentives to hunters to extend the current “deer damage” hunt from the end of March through the end of April.
Deer damage hunting helps communities overrun with deer by allowing special licenses issued by the New York State Department of Conservation to hunt outside the regular hunting seasons.
The idea of extending hunting through April was left on the table with no action despite Mr. Wein arguing that last year the town found extra money to pay for more corn for the 4-poster units — feeding stands that brush deer with a tickicide, permethrin — and should be willing to come up with more money to cull the herd.
“Why can’t we find extra money to feed the hunters” when the town found money to feed more corn to deer at feeding stands in the past year, Mr. Wein asked.
A decision could be made at the March Deer & Tick Committee meeting to extend the hunt for an extra month beyond the end of March. If there are concerns about hunting in April, when the Island’s population begins to swell, Committee Chairman Mike Scheibel suggested using sharpshooters better trained to avoid accidents.
But Mr. Payne saw a middle step by improving training for local recreational hunters who know the Island and have them hunt in less congested areas.
Police Chief Jim Read said he was opposed to extending the deer damage permit hunt beyond the end of March.
Only two hunters have sought deer damage permits to continue to hunt in February and March, Mr. Payne said. He has been reaching out to hunters to try to get them to participate, but so far hasn’t had much success.
Both Mr. Payne and committee member Dr. Scott Campbell cautioned the committee against drawing conclusions about policies from too little data. Dr. Campbell, recently named to head the Suffolk County Tick Control Advisory Committee, is the laboratory director of the county’s Department of Health Services.
While there is some data from previous years, Mr. Payne has been on the job for a little more than a year during which he has set up systems for tracking more data that eventually will accumulate so it can guide decision-making, he said.
At the meeting there was a discussion about doing tests on some Island deer who have been exposed to permethrin for the past 10 years to get an indication of the long-term effects of the tickicide. Seven deer have been tagged and identified; a suggestion was made to use one or two of these along with a deer who has been on the Island for less time and a deer taken from an area where permethrin has never been used.
But even with tissue analysis and other tests, the small sample would likely be insufficient to draw any conclusions, Dr. Campbell said.