Since the program was first outlined during a North Fork deer forum, many have spoken out on both sides of the issue. On the North Fork, support has been voiced strongly in favor of the program at area forums, as residents stream to the podium to chronicle the dearth of vegetation, spike in car accidents, and swelling number of tick-borne illnesses that have wreaked havoc on their lives.
Others have lashed out against the sharpshooter program. And now, an East Hampton group opposing the sharpshooter deer cull program will take to the streets in protest later this month.
The East Hampton Group for Wildlife, which already filed suit against the town, village, and town trustees, has organized a "No Cull" rally and demonstration on Jan. 18.
"We want to express, in a visible way, the depth of opposition to the deer cull," said Bill Craine, a Montauk resident and the founder for the East Hampton Group for Wildlife. "Every day I receive emails from East Hampton residents who say they are 'appalled' and 'sickened' by the plan to use sharpshooters to kill hundreds of deer. They ask, 'How can I help stop this?'"
The Long Island Farm Bureau secured $200,000 in grant funding to embark upon the United State Department of Agriculture's sharpshooter program to reduce the number of deer on the East End and in the Town of Brookhaven. The goal is to eliminate 2,000 to 3,000 deer in one of the largest government deer removals ever undertaken.
The program was estimated to cost about $500,000, with towns and villages agreeing to participate and provide additional funding. Riverhead Town is the only town so far to opt out of the program, though the Town of Southampton is still undecided.
Craine said there has there has been much enthusiasm for the demonstration so far.
"Public officials have talked about a 'deer emergency' and 'epidemic,' but the available data suggest that the East Hampton deer population may well be declining," he said, pointing to a ground survey his group commissioned in 2006 that estimated there were 3,293 deer. The town-commissioned aerial survey counted 877.
"Despite different methodologies, the surveys point to population reduction. It’s possible that a cull could devastate the deer population in our town," Craine said.
Those who want to speak out against the deer cull planned in East Hampton will gather at the Hook Mill in the village on Jan. 18 at 1 p.m. and march in single file along the sidewalks to Herrick Park, where they will stand for 20 to 30 minutes facing Newtown Lane.
Craine knew of no other rallies planned on the East End, as he said he has only heard from one resident outside of East Hampton.
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