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Officials: Lack of 4-posters and closed hunting sites pose deer problem

Efforts to cull the deer herd on Shelter Island are limited this year by two major factors:

• A New York State Department of Environmental Conservation mandate that the 4-poster program end

• An inability to hunt some sites typically used that are out of bounds for hunters this year for reasons of safety and desire to open some areas to hikers and an increased population resulting from COVID-19.

The statement came from Police Chief Jim Read following the Oct. 7 Deer & Tick Committee virtual meeting.

Plans called for stepping up hunting this year to offset the loss of the 4-poster units.

But those plans were established well before anyone heard of COVID-19, the chief said.

Both Mashomack Preserve and Sylvester Manor have banned hunters in order to open their hiking paths to residents seeking respite from the pandemic. But there will be hunting at Sylvester Manor this year, starting November 1.

Other areas, including areas where substantial deer have been culled in past years, are also not being hunted because the greater population that remained on Shelter Island after the summer season ended means there are concerns with assuring people are safe, he said.

What’s more, an annual flyover planned for 2020 couldn’t happen because the contractor responsible for doing that work contracted COVID-19.

That left the town with an inability to tally the current deer population, according to Deer & Tick Committee Chairman James Bevilacqua. Two methods were used in past years — the annual flyover and cameras that were set on 4-poster units. With the units gone and the flyover canceled Dr. Bevilacqua and Animal Control Officer Beau Payne told their committee colleagues it is impossible to measure culling efforts without a reliable estimate of the deer population.

Mr. Payne estimated the deer herd had been culled by about 550 in each of the previous two years. But neither he nor Dr. Bevilacqua were optimistic that the 2020-21 hunting season will result in as many deer being culled from the herd.