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DEC advises strategy change on 4-poster use

A strong statement from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) calls for rethinking the strategy of deploying 4-poster units to combat ticks, which, the agency says, hasn’t demonstrated “a great deal of success.”

The statement was issued Monday by DEC Public Information Officer Ben DeLaMater in response to questions the Reporter posed to Environmental Conservation Wildlife Biologist Sue Booth-Binczik. Ms. Booth-Binczik spoke at a forum on the Island last June, clearly stating that when she advised that feeding the deer should be stopped, 4-poster units were included.

The units are feeding stands that brush deer with a tickicide, permethrin.

More than 300,000 pounds of corn were used in 4-poster units last season with plans to repeat the use in 31 units deployed around the Island.

The Deer & Tick Committee last week was poised to approve a deer management plan, but delayed it because of a recurring debate over the use of 4-posters as a part of the town’s effort to battle tick-borne diseases.

Instead, members discussed what Ms. Booth-Binzcik meant last year when she advised against feeding deer.

To committee member Marc Wein, the message was clear — stop feeding deer, whether through use of 4-posters or by some residents on their properties.

But that’s not how other committee members said they interpreted Ms. Booth-Binczik’s advice. They said she was referring to residents feeding deer, not to using 4-posters.

“Four-poster use is a form of deer feeding and has the same potential for negative effects as any other form of deer feeding,” was the response from Mr. DeLaMater after he spoke with Ms. Booth-Benczik. “The 4-poster program may be making it more difficult for the town to achieve its deer reduction goals,” Mr. DeLaMater added. “It may also be boosting populations of other potentially problematic animals like raccoons, geese, crows and rats.”

Given that Shelter Island has been using 4-posters for many years and residents still feel there is a serious tick problem, “the town might want to consider redirecting resources from the 4-poster program to the deer control program,” Mr. DeLaMater said. “If there were an intensive effort that succeeded in bringing deer numbers down substantially, that would make further 4-poster use a lot less expensive and it should make tick control efforts more effective.”

Scott Campbell, a committee member and director of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services Arthropod Laboratory, said he took Ms. Booth-Binczik’s words last year in a more general sense, referring to residents feeding deer on their properties.

Member Craig Wood said it appears deployment of the units affects where and when deer can be hunted on the Island. But he’s not convinced that luring the deer with corn is contributing to reducing the herd.

Committee Chairman Dr. James Bevilacqua said he took Ms. Booth-Binczik’s words to refer to issues of reducing the deer herd upstate in the Buffalo area.

Ms. Booth-Binczik was clear last year in saying that to effectively cut down on tick-borne diseases, it would be necessary to reduce the deer herd.

What’s generally considered a manageable deer population is eight to 12 deer per square mile. No one has a clear estimate on the number of deer on the Island, but estimates are more than 100 per square mile. The current aim is to reduce it to about half that and then re-examine policies with an eye to further reducing it.