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Deer & Tick Committee debates plans for aggressive culling

CHARITY ROBEY PHOTO Mike Scheibel announced his retirement from as natural resources manager at Mashomack Preserve effective May 4.
CHARITY ROBEY PHOTO Mike Scheibel announced his retirement  as natural resources manager at Mashomack Preserve effective May 4.

Deer & Tick Committee Chairman Mike Scheibel will retire from his position as natural resources manager at Mashomack Preserve effective May 4, coinciding with his resignation from the committee.

Mr. Scheibel made the announcement, which has been rumored for some time, at the end of the February 7 committee meeting, telling members he regrets not being able to see the process of conquering the Island’s tick problem resolved, although he’s pleased with progress made to date.

Mr. Scheibel added that in 15 years on the committee, he’s proud that in recent years under his leadership there has been close to full attendance, including members who phone in for discussions.

At the February 7 meeting, the seven member committee rejected a proposal to have Animal Control Officer Beau Payne spend much of his time during the duration of “the nuisance hunt” helping to cull the herd. Nuisance, or “deer damage hunting” helps communities overrun with deer by allowing special licenses issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to hunt outside the regular hunting seasons.

There are two hunters now certified to participate in the nuisance culling and a third is expected to qualify shortly for that part of the hunt that lasts until the end of March.

Committee member Craig Wood sought consensus to step up culling by authorizing Mr. Payne to spend more time hunting.

“We’re not culling, we’re maintaining,” Mr. Wood said about the size of the deer herd. It should be the committee’s number one priority to increase the kill, he added.

Mr. Wood won support from committee member Marc Wein, a long-time supporter of aggressive culling, and Chuck Tiernan. The other four members thought it too early to judge the effectiveness of the nuisance hunt program before making a decision on increasing the effort.

This year’s nuisance hunt is designed to give greater incentive to local hunters to continue to cull the herd through February and March after many don’t want to deal with winter weather.

There are two hunters paid for taking female does in a manner similar to how the town pays butchers, Mr. Payne said. A third is close to gaining certification to participate.

Mr. Payne outlined statistics from the recreational hunting season that started October 1, 2017 and ended January 31, noting that 422 deer were taken compared with the previous recreational hunt that took 404 deer.

Mr. Payne estimated that the numbers represent about 75 percent of the total deer taken on Shelter Island, noting that not all hunters report the deer they’ve killed.

The cold storage unit at the Manhanset firehouse on Cobbetts Lane was used to store 96 carcasses this year, most donated to the town, while about 20 were stored for a brief period until hunters could pick them up for their own use.

About 1,200 pounds of deer meat was processed and has continued to be claimed by residents free of charge from a freezer at the Recycling Center as quickly as the meat arrives, Mr. Payne said.

Currently, those hired to butcher the meat have provided their own storage bags, but Mr. Payne expects by next year to provide standardized bags that can be labeled. Right now, the meat being butchered is available for roasts, loin and stew, he said.

There remains no check on whether the meat is at all tainted with permethrin, the tickicide used on the 4-poster units, feeding stands that brush deer with the chemical. Dr. Scott Campbell, a committee member, said he is looking for a regional lab that would do the testing.

Cornell, which tested meat during the pilot program with 4-posters, no longer does the analysis, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation also isn’t set up to test the meat.

“It’s going to be pricey” to test meat, Dr. Campbell said, and while there has been report of tainted meat, he thinks it’s important to have the venison tested.