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.
"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.