About 30 percent of Islanders who received surveys from the Deer & Tick Committee responded by the first week of September, according to Animal Control Officer Beau Payne.
“I’m sort of shocked,” Mr. Payne said about what he called a “pretty significant” number of responses, with approximately 1,000 received.
He and Deer & Tick Committee member Marc Wein have been keying in the responses with the hope that by the October 4 committee meeting, they will have some data to report, which will assist the committee in drafting its 2018 budget.
The budget process began at the September 6 meeting, but will be ongoing throughout September and early October as the Town Board begins hearings to assess requests from departments and committees.
Mr. Wein, who described himself as a trained sociologist, said he has been impressed with Mr. Payne’s approach to recording the data in order to draw conclusions from the responses.
Survey questions dealt with:
• Experience respondents have had with ticks or tick borne diseases
• Thoughts about lawn spraying
• Responses about use of 4-poster units — feeding stands that brush deer with a tickicide, permethrin
• Responses about recreational hunting to control the deer population
• Responses to using trained and licensed hunters to reduce deer density.
At the September 6 meeting, Dr. Scott Campbell, a committee member and director of the Suffolk Country Department of Health Services Anthropod-Borne Disease Laboratory, dispelled concerns about permethrin leeching into groundwater and affecting drinking water.
The health department’s Office of Water Resources Drinking Water Bureau has tested approximately 19,480 samples since 1999. “None had permethrin,” Dr. Campbell said. Of wells tested, 1,147 were on Shelter Island.
Based on the results, he said there’s “good evidence to say permethrin use on Shelter Island is not affecting drinking water,” he said.
The effects of long-range use of permethrin is difficult to get, Dr. Campbell said, pointing out that one of the long-time users of 4-posters was in Texas where the person who led that effort retired and no one picked up the work.
In Howard County, Maryland, there is an effort under way to assess tick-borne diseases and responses to various methods of controlling ticks. Included is a program tracking white-footed mice and putting GPS collars on white-tailed deer to track their movements. The two are considered primary hosts of ticks. Maryland officials said it’s too early to assess results since the effort only began in January.
Mr. Wein has been encouraging the health department to test the two or three deer that were tagged and have been on the Island since permethrin use started. But Dr. Campbell said even if the department agreed to that, he wasn’t confident tests on so few deer would be very telling about the safety of deer meat.
While there are those who refuse to eat the meat after deer have been exposed to permethrin, it has been available for many years in a freezer at the town Recycling Center where it is stocked by town-hired butchers. There have not been incidents of illness linked to the meat and an Internet search reveals no direct links either.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists have maintained the meat is safe as long as it comes from a deer that was otherwise healthy at the time of the kill.