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Latest report from the Shelter Island Deer & Tick Committee

A “skyrocketing” increase in ticks isn’t manifesting itself in people developing tick-borne diseases, Deer & Tick Committee Chairman Dr. James Bevilacqua said at the  Aug. 16 meeting of the group.

Numbers aren’t exact, Dr. Bevilacqua said. But the best local information comes from the number of people being prescribed doxyccline — a class of medications to treat infections. Dr. Josh Potter, one of two physicians at the Island’s Medical Center, is starting to track patients who report being bitten by a tick or showing possible signs of Lyme Disease. With a relatively new practice on the Island, Dr. Potter’s data will likely provide more information each year, Dr. Bevilacqua said.

The tick-borne disease babesiosis has been said to be increasing, but the black legged ticks responsible for the spread of the disease are not up significantly on Shelter Island, according to Beau Payne, who works for the Police Department in two roles — assisting with animal control incidents and as a bay constable.

Since the State Department of Environmental Conservation banned the use of 4-poster units in 2019 — feeding stands that brush deer with a tickicide, permethrin — strategies to combat ticks have had to change. The Island was among the first communities used as a test site for 4-posters when the program began in 2008; the Town applied for an exemption to the ban, hoping to be able to continue the use of 4-posters, but the DEC refused.

Since the ban, the Deer & Tick Committee has had to concentrate its efforts on culling the herd, educating the public to avoid tick bites and to check themselves for ticks to remove them, and once bitten, to seek treatment.

Unfortunately, in the past year, there have been fewer hunters, even though there have been stepped-up efforts to attract more, both for the recreational hunt that begins in October and for the February and March hunts by Nuisance Wildlife Control Officers (NWCOs) who are specially trained and licensed. There had been four NWCOs on the job, but last year, there were only three.

Committee member Julia Weisenberg has been concentrating on the educational aspect of reducing tick-borne illnesses. In addition, she told her colleagues there are three Shelter Island youths who have taken an initial hunting course, and there’s a bowhunting course coming up in next month. They plan to hunt when the season begins in October, Ms. Weisenberg said.


The Committee began a discussion of its 2024 budget. As discussed before, it’s not expected there will be another flyover to estimate the deer population, making $26,000 available to be redirected to other efforts. Flyovers collect data based on information from planes using infrared video techniques from 1,600 feet.

Among possible options to reduce the deer population, and reduce tick-borne diseases, are several suggested by Councilman Jim Colligan, Town Board liaison to the committee:

• Modifications on deer habitat on town-owned properties to enhance access for hunting, deer recovery and creation of wider hiking trails.

• Increases in payments and incentives to NWCOs to attract more hunters to join the program.

• More money spent on educational materials.

• Expansion of recreational archery training for adults and  students.

• Equipment, including double tree stands for bowhunters.


Dr. Bevilacqua revealed that he has started informal talks with Gordon Gooding, chairman of the Community Preservation Fund Advisory Board; Tim Purtell, chairman of the Green Options Committee; and Howard Johansen, co-chairman of the Conservation Advisory Council, about dealing with so-called “invasives” (fast-growing vines and plants that overtake areas) on town-owned lands.

It’s an early effort that needs further discussion, Dr. Bevilacqua said.