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Suspension of Shelter Island’s 4-poster program is likely

With only days to go before the March 15 deadline to gain permission from residents to deploy 4-poster units in their neighborhoods, it appears unlikely any units will be used this spring, summer and fall.

The units attract deer to eat corn while rollers on each side rub their necks with the tickicide permethrin. The Island has been using them since 2008 and, from the beginning, questions have been raised about how safe and effective long-term the units are and whether the expense of maintaining them and buying corn to attract the deer is worth the cost.

As of the March 4 meeting of the Deer & Tick Committee, Animal Control Officer Beau Payne had only one site — the Recycling Center — where he could deploy one or more units in line with a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) edict requiring that no units could be placed unless 100% of neighbors within 745 feet of a 4-poster agreed.

There were a few cases where neighbors had said no, blocking placement of units. But in most cases, there was no response, while the DEC requires active agreement. Lack of response counts as a vote against deployment, Officer Payne told the committee.

The budget for the program is about $45,000. Officer Payne told the Town Board Tuesday at its work session that by not deploying the units and stocking them with corn, some of the funds can be used for an aerial count of the deer herd. Currently, a count of deer on the Island is done by placing cameras near the units, but will be unreliable without corn to attract the animals. Taking about $25,000 from the 4-poster budget, the town is set to contract with Ohio-based Davis Aviation to make a “flyover” count of the herd, using infrared video techniques, Officer Payne said.

He had researched other flyover services, and after getting references about Davis, chose the Ohio firm. Flights will be at 1,600 feet beginning about two hours after sunset. To be effective, the flights should be done annually.

The town has to act quickly, Officer Payne said, since Davis has informed him that now is the optimum time for a count, since there is sparse foliage. Flights could begin as early as next week, Officer Payne said.

The committee at its March 4 meeting discussed deploying two or three 4-posters at the Recycling Center and identifying a control area with no units as a means of comparing the two through tick drags — running a white cloth in the area to see how many ticks could be observed.

Committee Chairman Jim Bevilacqua said he’s always hoped to be able to end use of 4-posters, but believed that was at least three years off. Now, it appears, the decision has been taken out of local hands, he said.

With the anticipated suspension of the 4-poster program, the committee is encouraging property owners not to spray insecticide, but use “tick tubes” deployed around their houses.

Deer harvest

Officer Payne announced that 448 deer had been taken from Oct. 1, 2019 through February 29, 2020, compared with 474 for the same period last year. Three hunters in the specially licensed Nuisance Wildlife Control Officers (NWCO) program have taken 54 deer in February. The goal is to take at least 100 by the end of the special hunt that will last at least until March 31 and may be extended into April. Technically, the NWCO hunt could go through September, but for safety reasons, it is stopped during the spring and summer months.

Member Craig Wood argued that the goal of 100 deer for that hunt should be higher. He was told 100 is the goal, but that doesn’t mean the effort will stop when that number is reached.