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Tick reduction focused on culling

With the recreational bow hunting season underway since Oct. 1, Shelter Island’s Deer & Tick Committee is focusing attention on ways to strengthen its battle against tick-borne diseases in the year ahead, moving toward increased culling of the herd.

The town has been focusing on scaling back its use of 4-posters, although it is still deploying them. But they are expensive to maintain and most on the committee believe culling the herd more aggressively is the best way to achieve the effort to decrease tick-borne diseases.

The town plans to participate in a Suffolk County program of culling it hopes will enable a larger number of deer to be harvested. Until now, only Shelter Island residents and friends with them have been allowed to hunt town-managed sites. A change would also allow some recreational hunters from outside of town to register to hunt the sites, Animal Control Officer Beau Payne said.

“This expands the number of people who can hunt on Shelter Island,” he said. “Part of my job is to ensure properties are being hunted as efficiently as possible,” he said.

At the same time, with Shelter Island involved in the 4-poster effort since 2008 when Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension launched a pilot program, the town is considered a preeminent participant in the effort throughout New York State to decrease tick-borne diseases.

Now the Island may participate in a program underway at Brookhaven National Laboratory to help determine ideal servicing of 4-poster units.

Mr. Payne has been servicing the units in past years twice a week during the season. They are deployed from early spring through the end of October. But in the past several months, they have generally been serviced once a week. The servicing involves checking the units for wear, adding permethrin to the part of the units that rub the tickicide chemical on deers’ necks while they feed and replenishing corn to attract them to the units.

There has been a decrease in the amount of corn needed during the past years to keep the units viable, Mr. Payne said. In the month of September, corn consumption was down by 8% and for the year to date, down 17%, Mr. Payne reported.

The program at Brookhaven has involved keeping half its units at the twice-a-week protocol while the remaining units were being serviced once every three weeks.

“It might be something we could capitalize on,” Mr. Payne told the committee at its Oct. 2 meeting at Town Hall.

The committee is still awaiting word on its 2020 budget from the Town Board as well as possible grants to offset its spending.

So far, the budget talks haven’t sliced money from the request, but have moved some expenses to an already existing equipment line, meaning it won’t have to come from additional taxpayer dollars in 2020. A truck purchase this year that was to be paid over three years from the operating budget is now planned to be paid off through the equipment budget, not only decreasing the amount taxpayers will have to commit next year, but also saving about $2,500 in interest charges.

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