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DEC: Island will not receive exemption for 4-poster units

Shelter Island has lost its bid — at least for the moment — to gain an exemption from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation requirement that 4-poster units can only be deployed in areas where 100% of residents within 745 feet of the units agree.

Recognizing that in a fairly dense area like Shelter Island that would probably be impossible, town officials sought an exemption from the regulation, only to be told there was no provision for exemptions.

That said, DEC officials informed the town they would monitor efforts to gain permission from residents and could discuss the situation further.

“They’re doing what they think is right,” Deer & Tick Committee Chairman Dr. James Bevilacqua said. 

On Wednesday morning, the committee was scheduled to meet to discuss how to move forward, he said. Dr. Bevilacqua said his role as chairman is not to dictate to members how they should proceed, but to lead a discussion to reach a consensus.

What’s already underway are letters sent to those property owners where 4-posters — feeding stands that brush deer with a tickicide, permethrin — have been deployed in past years to determine whether they would agree to deploying them again. If enough are willing, the next step would be to send letters to surrounding residents to determine whether they would approve of deployments.

But while awaiting results of these letters, Dr. Bevilacqua said, it’s unlikely that the committee will explore alternatives to reduce ticks on the Island. He sees the three prongs of the committee’s approach — 4-posters, culling of the herd and public education — as separate from one another. Regardless of what happens with the 4-poster program, the current culling effort will continue to proceed as it has, Dr. Bevilacqua said.

He repeated what Police Chief Jim Read has said — that if anyone can suggest a means of eliminating more deer on which the ticks feed, everyone would be open to doing so. Recreational hunters participate for the sport, the camaraderie of being with friends and bringing some food to their tables, the chairman said. They appreciate the opportunity through the deer hunting program the committee has established to win certificates for purchasing sporting equipment. But it’s unlikely they would succeed in taking more deer than they have taken in recent years, he added.

The use of specially licensed Nuisance Wildlife Control Officers (NWCOs) to hunt out of the regular hunting season has been in place for two years and shown some promise, he said. But getting more NWCOs on the Island has been limited so far.

Animal Control Officer Beau Payne has made it clear he would want to carefully vet any potential NWCOs interested in the Shelter Island program. The NWCOs shoot during February and March. They could extend that period into early spring or starting up after Labor Day until the recreational hunt begins in October. But so far, that hasn’t been done.

At its current pace, Dr. Bevilacqua believes the deer management program is on target to reduce the herd on the Island by half within a couple of years. Just what that number is remains unclear, although Dr. Bevilacqua suggested it could be 60 deer per square mile left on the Island by that time. The optimum number, most experts have said, is 8 to 10 deer per square mile.

That’s something the committee has known all along, but it set its initial goal to cut the herd in half and then reassess. 

As for hiring sharpshooters in a more aggressive approach, he doesn’t believe Islanders have an appetite for that. 

“There’s a pretty strong hunting population on Shelter Island,” Dr. Bevilacqua said. Ultimately, with or without 4-posters, it appears at the moment that nothing is likely to change in the committee’s strategy.