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No numbers yet on how many deer are calling Shelter Island home

The Deer & Tick Committee hasn’t received data from a Jan. 31 flyover, although it’s expected this month. When the raw numbers are received, Animal Control Officer Beau Payne and Committee Chairman Jim Bevilacqua will study them in search of trends.

Flyovers by single engine planes collect data using infrared video techniques from 1,600 feet.

Officer Payne wasn’t at the March 1 meeting because of another assignment, but Dr. Bevilacqua said raw data from 2022, the second successive year a flyover occurred, showed an increase in the Island’s deer herd. He’s hoping this year’s numbers will reveal a decrease in the Island’s deer herd.

The Shelter Island Police Department reports that there have been eight deer/motor vehicle accidents this year as of March 6. In all of 2022 there were 30, and in 2021 there were 21.

Turning to education, the committee noted that there’s a delay in teaching local adults to become archery instructors who can then work with students. The program being launched is a plan to teach adults how to instruct student archers with the hope they might eventually become hunters on the Island.

But to be certified, the would-be instructors must be trained by others selected by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and there are no instructors available to offer the training on the East End.

Committee member Julia Weisenberg said the nearest trainer is on Staten Island and he’s unwilling to travel. Although Ms. Weisenberg said she would go to Staten Island for the training, Councilman Jim Colligan, the Town Board liaison to the Deer & Tick Committee, said he thinks instruction should take place somewhere in Suffolk County.

Ms. Weisenberg is also working with Cindy Belt and Rebecca Kusa from Mashomack Preserve on an educational program for students, teaching them how to dress when hiking to avoid tick bites and how to check for ticks after walking in the woods.

Dr. Bevilacqua said there should be similar education for seasonal visitors to the Island.

There was a brief discussion about data. Dr. Josh Potter, a committee member, is trying to gather numbers on patients who report tick bites and those who are diagnosed with a tick-borne illness. But he and member Scott Campbell, who heads the Suffolk County Arthropod-Borne Disease Laboratory, agreed with Dr. Bevilacqua’s emphasis on trends rather than trying to pin down exact numbers.

Dr. Potter started his practice on the Island in 2021 and has been building the practice ever since. As it increases, that, too, will be a factor in looking at numbers of people reporting tick bites and those being diagnosed with a tick-borne disease.

Also, with a population on the Island that swells in summer months, many people may not see an on-Island doctor, but return home and be diagnosed elsewhere.