06/27/13 10:30am

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | Police Chief James Read giving a presentation on deer management to the Town Board Tuesday.

Police Chief Read James Read reported to the Town Board  work session Tuesday on the “nuisance hunting” program, which allows hunters to apply for special licenses to cull the deer herd.

In 2006, when nuisance hunting kicked off, 478 deer were taken. But that became a steady decline over the years with 222 deer killed in 2012.

There were many variables in the decrease of deer taken in the program since 2006, Chief Read said, including, among others, weather and hunters not having as much time as in the past.

The number of nuisance hunters who have taken at least one deer has dropped dramatically in the past six years, Chief Read said. In 2006, 24 hunters qualified, but that number fell sharply to only seven last year.

Mike Scheibel, natural resources manager at Mashomack,  said this could mean the deer population has decreased, but there was another factor that he described as “scary. There is one individual who is essentially the deer management program.”

Mr. Scheibel noted that six of the seven nuisance hunters registered last year took only two deer each, for a total of 12, while the other hunter killed the rest of the 222.

Taking deer at that level requires a lot of time and effort and in the future he may not always be hunting year-to-year, Mr. Scheibel said.

“Someone has to address this because he’s your entire deer management program,” he added.

There are other programs to consider, including U.S. Department of Agriculture sharp shooters who come into communities and cull deer herds, which Southold uses. Mr. Scheibel said these hunters use silencers and the USDA handles everything from legal issues to community education.

Councilman Ed Brown said the issue should be discussed when the budget for next year is put together. “I have concerns that one guy is doing the management,” he said. “I’d hate to see this number [of deer taken] cut in half again.”

Mr. Scheibel said there was some evidence that the deer herd at Mashomack was down “a little,” based on what he described as “vegetation impact,” and “that’s the good news.”

It’s extremely difficult to get an accurate figure on the deer herd Island-wide, Chief Read said, and then presented some data on road kill. In 2000 there were 74 motor vehicle accidents involving deer, which has dropped to 27 recorded in 2012. The chief found it interesting that after the high figure in 2000, the number dropped sharply to 28 the following year and then “flatlined,” never going higher than 35 or lower than 23 for the following years. But the chief cautioned that he wasn’t saying there are less deer on the Island.

Mr. Brown said he understood deer might be shifting to different areas. But recently “a block from my house it was like going through a video game.”

Supervisor Jim Dougherty said that action should be taken. “Tick disease, 4-posters, deer population have climbed back,” the supervisor said, after problems “went into hibernation. We took advantage of that, but it’s coming to fruition again. We have to come to grips with it.”

06/25/13 5:04pm

FILE PHOTO | Using the “tick drag” method, as shown above, some sky high numbers were recorded last week.

Ticks are back. With a vengeance.

Mike Scheibel, natural resources manager of Mashomack, said the tick population there is up more than 200 percent over last year.

Speaking at Tuesday’s Town Board session and later with the Reporter, Mr. Scheibel said these were startling figures. And it isn’t just anecdotal findings — even though Mr. Scheibel said those numbers were off the charts — but scientific fieldwork that produced the jaw dropping statistics.

Last June 28 in what’s called “a tick drag,” where a large white cloth of corduroy-like material is dragged across sites, a sampling discovered 185 “lone star tick nymphs” at separate sites, Mr. Scheibel said.

Using the same methodology last Thursday at the same sites, 645 tick nymphs were booked.

Mr. Scheibel said that any kind scientific sampling has to be as standardized as possible. At Mashomack last year and last week, the same two samplers worked the exact same 30 sites. It was a two-person team, with one person dragging the cloth and the other timing it to exactly 30 seconds a drag.

“I did 15 and was timed and the other person did 15 while I timed,” Mr. Scheibel said.

The methodology of counting the tick population was introduced by the Cornell Cooperative Extension, which set up the “4-poster program”  for three years beginning in March 2008.

Developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the 1990s, the 4-poster applies a “tickicide,” permethrin to deer where the ticks concentrate: their heads, necks and ears. Evidence gathered during three years of tests on Shelter Island, experts say, show the 4-poster worked, with kill rates of more than 90 percent.

But that project, privately funded at $5,000 a unit, had a total of 60 4-posters. Now, with the town budgeted at $75,000 for the anti-tick program, there are only 14 units town-wide and four at Mashomack.