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Deer & Tick Committee: No expansion of deer hunt this year

COURTESY TOWN OF SHELTER ISLAND A chart of results from the Deer & Tick survey released last October.
COURTESY TOWN OF SHELTER ISLAND A chart of results from the Deer & Tick survey released last October.

For the second month in a row, members of the Deer & Tick Committee tried to answer a question: Should Animal Control Officer Beau Payne spend part of his work hours hunting, especially during the February-March so-called “nuisance hunt” permit season?

At the March 7 D&T meeting, there was another dimension to the discussion: Should the results of last year’s community survey where there was a clear call for greater efforts to cull the deer herd drive the decision?

What’s clear is Mr. Payne won’t be participating in the hunt this year, but could in 2019.
Nuisance hunting helps communities overrun with deer by allowing special licenses, also known as deer damage permits, issued by the New York State Department of Conservation.

Those qualifying for the special licenses are farm owners, for example, or municipalities, which can then designate an agent to hunt.

This year’s nuisance hunt had an added dimension — the use of Nuisance Wildlife Control Officers (NWCO), specially licensed local hunters who could be rewarded for their efforts during the hunt.

Three hunters signed up to participate in the program and during the initial month of the nuisance hunt, took 19 deer, 12 of which were does.

In this pilot program, the committee aimed to take at least 40 deer. When numbers are tallied at the end of March, it appears possible they will hit that target.

Councilman Jim Colligan, a former committee member and now a Town Board liaison to the Deer & Tick Committee,  pointed out that the NWCO hunt specifically targets does because the average adult doe is carrying two fawns.

“You are not only harvesting 40 deer, but you are directly impacting the birth rate of an additional 80 fawns,” he said. “This represents an important goal for the deer and tick committee,” he said.

Still, committee member Craig Wood said at the March 7 meeting that Mr. Payne should be tasked with some hunting during the rest of March. Mr. Wood also suggested extending the NWCO hunt into half of April, but only on weekdays.

That’s not likely to happen this year, said Police Chief Jim Read, who manages the hunting program on the Island. Chief Read noted that baiting sites to attract deer is allowed during the nuisance hunt, but not after March 31. Nonetheless, there was general agreement that the committee would ask the Town Board to extend the hunt into mid-April in 2019.

The reason the majority of committee members at the February meeting shied away from other changes during the nuisance hunt was to evaluate the impact of the NWCO pilot program.

Chief Read said he wanted to get input from Mr. Payne, who was not at the March meeting. The chief also wanted to get input from the three NWCO hunters participating in this year’s program.

Mr. Colligan said he views the survey as a mandate to push for more aggressive action in culling the herd.

A community forum will be scheduled in June at the school auditorium to share information with the public and to hear from Sue Booth-Binczik, a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Wildlife Biologist in the Division of Fish and Wildlife. Dr. Scott Campbell, a committee member and director of the Suffolk Country Department of Health Services Anthropod-Borne Disease Laboratory, will also speak at the forum.

Committee Chairman Mike Scheibel released the latest statistic that the animal control officer had tallied.
• From October 1, 2017 to the end of February this year, 488 deer were killed compared with 458 for the same period last year.
• 120 deer carcasses were stored at the freezer unit at the Recycling Center during the hunt.
• A total of 1,665 pounds of venison has been donated by hunters to the town. Anyone wishing to get the free meat will find it in a refrigerated unit at the Recycling Center through the end of March.
• $2,300 in gift certificates were awarded to hunters in 10 separate raffles held during the recreational hunting period that began October 1, 2017 and ended on January 31, 2018.