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Committee: Higher number of deer, but optimism reigns

Following a report of the results of a “flyover” to determine the deer population on the Island, the Deer & Tick Committee has indicated that despite higher numbers than expected, there is reason for optimism.

In April, a written report from Beau Payne, Police Department liaison to the committee, showed a total of 635 deer spotted, or approximately 53 deer per square mile. A flyover collects data based on information using infrared video techniques on a plane flying at 1,600 feet.

In that April report, Mr. Payne said former estimates of deer — on which ticks feed — reported in 2020, may have been too low. In 2020, the number was estimated at 947 deer or 80 animals per square mile. In 2021, the deer population was estimated at 750 deer or 63 deer per square mile.

This year, Committee members were aiming to see no more than 50 deer per square mile, so the 53 reported was not dramatically different from the goal, Mr. Payne said.

The good news was the determination after studying the flyover results that most of the deer were spotted on lands where no hunting or very limited hunting is allowed. That opens the possibility of reaching out to more property owners to gain permission to hunt deer and such partnerships could enhance efforts to decrease tick-borne diseases.

For now, the Committee will focus on whether or not to plan a flyover in 2023.

Although Mr. Payne said there has been a slight increase in ticks on the Island this year, Committee member Scott Campbell, Ph.D., who is the Suffolk County Department of Health Services Arthropod-Borne Disease Lab Director, said tick numbers fluctuate, but there’s no outstanding area of the county where the problem is significantly higher.

Dr. Josh Potter, another Committee member, said he has written prescriptions for Doxycycline, the usual medication for Lyme disease. But he said doxycycline is also prescribed for pneumonia diagnoses. He said there seems to be a decrease across Suffolk County of tick-borne diseases.

Mr. Payne reported that residents who wish to burn to try to eliminate ticks on their property need to make arrangements with the Fire Department. But it’s not likely, unless there’s a training need, that firefighters will be able to accommodate such requests.

Member Julia Weisenberg, who has been chairing the education subcommittee, said she has spoken to School Superintendent Brian Doelger, Ed.D., about launching an archery program for students. The aim would be to teach archery to students who might develop an interest in bow hunting and eventually be able to augment the numbers of recreational bow hunters.