USDA: Southold Deer Cull 'On Track' To Start This Month

The cull could continue through early April, according to the USDA.

Despite the fact that a controversial sharpshooter program aimed at thinning the deer herd in Southold Town was initially set to begin in mid-February, officials were unable to disclose the actual start date of the cull — or to reveal whether or not it had actually already begun.

Joe Gergela, executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, the agency that has contracted directly with the United States Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Division for the cull, said that on the advice of legal counsel, he was not able to speak on the issue.

Carol Bannerman, public affairs officer for the USDA, said on Wednesday that the cull "is on track to begin this month" and could continue through early April.

"The nights when work is planned will not be released in advance for safety reasons.  Local safety agencies will be advised before work begins," she said.

Bannerman said the number and type of locations available, weather and other variables will impact the total number of deer to be taken. The number will be within the amount allowed by permits issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the state agency that manages deer and other wildlife, and within the state program’s National Environmental Police Act compliance, she said.

"The number taken likely will be less than the number harvested by recreational deer hunters in the county and the East End Deer Project will complement, but not replace, recreational hunting," Bannerman said.

The number of teams will vary depending on a variety of factors and they will operate only on properties where there is signed written permission of the property owner or manager, she added.

The USDA's division of Wildlife Services had both an environmental analysis from 2003 posted and a 2009 analysis, the 2009 FONSI, she said; an additional environmental review is also underway.

"A cooperative services agreement with the Long Island Farm Bureau and signed permission for access to various properties are in place, which allow for the program to begin," she said.

When asked how the recent lawsuit and temporary restraining order filed by the Wildlife Preservation Coaliton would impact the cull, Bannerman said, "Speculation on pending legal action would be inappropriate, although Wildlife Services complies with all local, state, and other legal requirements," Bannerman said.

On Tuesday night, members of the public spoke out against the cull at a Southold town board meetng.

Ron Coons, who lives part of the year in Laurel, said while he is not a hunter or an animal activist, he said his goal was to get the town to reconsider their decision to allocated $25,000 toward the cull; the board voted two weeks ago to designate those funds.

Coons said he'd heard an array of facts, including that it would cost $30 million to sterilize the deer, rather than kill them.

He directed a number of questions to Councilman Bill Ruland, a farmer. He asked about the estimated deer population in Southold.

Ruland said it could be 85 per square mile, "a rampant number."

Coons also asked if any statistical study had been done in Southold to document the deer population and suggested a new, paid study, utilizing new technology, such as infrared lighting, be considered.

Other questions concerned how many deer the USDA was authorized to cull. "They're in the business of killing animals," he said.

Ruland said the agreement was directly between the LIFB and the USDA and the town was not involved.

"I don't know for certain, but I hope it's enough to make a difference," Ruland said.

On Wednesday, Bannerman said the limit of deer to be culled would be 1000. "Removing all of them is not our goal," she said.

Coons also asked about the method of culling the deer, which the USDA outlined in an earlier Patch article.

Town Attorney Martin Finnegan said the town had no involvement in the deer cull. "This is not a town action. We have no involvement in the details of the plan," he said. The only action taken by the town was the authorization of the funds, he said. "These questions should be directed to the USDA and LIFB."

"They can't just come into the Town of Southold and kill animals," Coons said.

"Yes, they can," Finnegan answered, adding that the agreement was made with private landowners, not town parcels.

"Southold Town is on the side on this issue," Supervisor Scott Russell said.

Coons said he was afraid all the deer in Southold would be killed. Bannerman said the goal was not to completely eradicate any living species.

"If no one is watching you could change the landscape of Southold forever," Coons said, suggesting the cull be put on hold for a year or so to explore other options and perform additional research.

"We are humans and we are responsible for the planet," Coons said.

Russell countered, "I do not want to see any species indigenous to the area disappear but I do not want to see any species dominate or overrun other species. We have an an environmental and public health crisis. We can't ignore it."

Cutchogue resident Benja Schwartz also asked the board to take time to weigh other options and reconsider making the contribution; he also questioned the "closed process."

Meanwhile, Art Tillman of Mattituck, also the town's Democratic party chair, said when a member of your family has suffered from Lyme disease, "your perception changes dramatically."

The public outcry against the cull came after three earlier public forums and meetings, during which time the outpouring of support was overwhelmingly in favor of the cull, as residents painted pictures of lives ravaged by tick born diseases and car accidents caused by deer, and experts detailed the damage to the environment caused by the swelling deer population.

Argile March 08, 2014 at 09:51 AM
Are the local deer edible? If so seems like there's a good market for this.
Val March 09, 2014 at 06:50 PM
I have been shopping for everything in the town of Riverhead since the town of Southold started killing deer. I will not spend another cent east of Laurel Lane until the town of Southold understands that the majority of Southold residents never wanted this cull to happen. How can the officials who say they represent us sleep at night knowing that they are causing pain and suffering to beautiful, defenseless animals that people from out of town come here to enjoy. Where is your humanity? Have you lost touch with your souls for the almighty dollar? Don't you know yet that money will never bring you happiness? Everyone knows already that the cull is driven by money. If the officials who ordered this killing could stand by the USDA as they lured and slaughtered defenseless animals and their newborns and watched them die, this cull (kill) would be history. Killing at 3 a.m. is the same as killing at any other hour of the day. It will forever be wrong and immoral and has stained the reputation of a once beautiful town devoted to preservation of land and wildlife -- the same town I always wanted to call home.
Linda Goldsmith March 10, 2014 at 09:05 AM
From the Center for Disease Control: How the disease is spread: Lyme disease is spread by the bite of ticks of the genus Ixodes that are infected with Borrelia burgdorferi. The deer (or bear) tick, which normally feeds on the white-footed mouse, the white-tailed deer, other mammals, and birds, is responsible for transmitting Lyme disease bacteria to humans in the northeastern and north-central United States. (In these regions, this tick is also responsible for the spreading of babesiosis, a disease caused by a malaria-like parasite.) On the Pacific Coast, the bacteria are transmitted to humans by the western black-legged tick, and in the southeastern states possibly by the black-legged tick. Ixodes ticks are much smaller than common dog and cattle ticks. In their larval and nymphal stages, they are no bigger than a pinhead. Adult ticks are slightly larger. Research in the eastern United States has indicated that, for the most part, ticks transmit Lyme disease to humans during the nymph stage, probably because nymphs are more likely to feed on a person and are rarely noticed because of their small size (less than 2 mm). Thus, the nymphs typically have ample time to feed and transmit the infection (ticks are most likely to transmit infection after approximately 2 or more days of feeding). Tick larvae are smaller than the nymphs, but they rarely carry the infection at the time of feeding and are probably not important in the transmission of Lyme disease to humans. “Deer tick is a discredited, incorrect, obsolete name,” says Ostfeld. “But as long as you’re calling it the deer tick, what animal are you going to accuse of fostering it?” In his book, Ostfeld analyzes more than a dozen studies comparing deer numbers with tick numbers. In most, deer were either eradicated or nearly eradicated in the area being studied. Overall, the results were startling. Article in Boston Globe: "In the first study, done on Great Island, Cape Cod, beginning in 1982, a reduction in the deer herd from at least 30 to less than 10 not only didn’t decrease the number of larval and nymphal ticks scientists found on the white-footed mice they collected, but seemed to increase them. It wasn’t until the herd was down to a lone doe that the number of ticks on the mice decreased significantly. At Crane Reservation in Ipswich, after the deer population was reduced from 350 in 1985 to 50 in 1991, larval and nymphal tick numbers did decline – but soon increased again to pre-hunt levels, “despite the vastly reduced deer density,” says Ostfeld." Southold fearless leaders really thought this through.......Just sayin"!
cm March 13, 2014 at 10:03 AM
Val, I agree with your comment. Anyone who disagrees with this slaughter should close their wallet on southold. Money speaks louder than words. Boycott them!!!!
Val March 13, 2014 at 05:03 PM
Thank you, cm. It would be wonderful if hearts, souls and minds could triumph over money in Southold Town. Then we could do what we love here and good fortune would naturally follow.


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