Reporter Editorial: Island needs more focus on culling herd

As the debate over the efficacy of 4-posters continues to rage on Shelter Island, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has put forth a new regulation that appears likely to decide the issue for municipalities.

The regulation due to take effect in January would require written permission from every landowner with 745 feet of a unit to agree to the deployment. In upstate areas, that is doable. But in a town like the more densely populated Shelter Island, it’s unlikely that there’s any site where the units have traditionally been placed that would get 100% endorsement.

It may be a fool’s errand for Animal Control Officer Beau Payne to have to reach out to residents to determine what is already evident, but that’s what the Deer & Tick Committee charged him to do before town officials make an effort to seek an exemption from the new DEC regulation.

News of the change in regulations, no doubt, has been welcomed by those like committee member Marc Wein who favor abandonment of the units, questioning their long-term effectiveness and safety of the tickicide permethrin.

On the opposite side is committee member Hank Amann, who has been an advocate of continued use of the units along with efforts to treat mice with a tickicide, arguing that ticks feed on them as they do on deer.

The full Deer & Tick Committee has shifted position from strongly advocating use of the units to moving in the direction of eventually abandoning them. But that eventuality was not thought to be as soon as 2020.

No matter where you come down on the issue, the Island has had more experience with the units than just about any municipality in the nation, having started their use during the Cornell University-Cornell Cooperative Extension pilot project in 2008.

A decision reached in Albany, while perhaps well intended, should not have to dictate the decision to be made on Shelter Island.

At the same time, the challenge remains in Police Chief Jim Read’s words to determine how to make culling the herd more effective. He has many times asked those advocating for spending more on culling just what they would do with the money. That question has yet to be answered.

Regardless of what happens with 4-posters in 2020, it’s a question the Deer & Tick Committee must answer and because of the DEC’s regulation change, it may need that answer sooner rather than later.