Town Green Lights Deer Cull; Animal Advocate To Pursue Litigation

Despite a steady stream of public opposition Tuesday, the town board moved forward with the deer cull plan.

Minutes after the Southold town board voted unanimously to move forward with a controversial sharpshooter program aimed at culling the deer herd, an animal advocate vowed to commence litigation.

"We will have a temporary restraining order by Thursday," said Bridgehampton resident Wendy Chamberlin, who was proactive in protesting the deer cull in East Hampton and now represents the Wildlife Preservation Coaliton; the East Hampton cull was called off for this year after an outpouring of opposition and looming litigation.

On Tuesday, the Southold town board voted unanimously to support the project, put forth by the Long Island Farm Bureau and the United States Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services. Joe Gergela, executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, asked each of the five East End towns to contribute toward the program; the LIFB has a $250,000 grant. Southold Town's contribution is $25,000. No other East End towns opted into the plan.

"Southold Town is 100 percent in support of this program," Russell has said.

Despite a steady stream of protest by members of the hunting community who came forward to plea with the board to let them address the deer issue, for free, Supervisor Scott Russell said while the town would rather use local hunters and pointed to the program already in place, state legislation is currently so restrictive that local hunters are facing a roadblock. Russell said he would stand in solidarity with hunters to wage the battle for legislative reform.

Cutchogue resident Barbara McGowan stood up to passionately plea for the deer. Despite the fact that she is an NRA member and has no problem with guns, she said, "What they are going to do is cold-blooded murder." She quoted Albert Schweitzer, "Until we extend our compassion to all living things, humanity will find no peace." She added, "I pray for that peace here in Southold."

She also questioned the liability issues, should someone be hurt or killed by a stray bullet.

"My wife and I are vehemently opposed to this deer kill — it's kill, not cull," said Ben Schwab of Mattituck. "We resent our tax money going toward this."

Benja Schwartz of Cutchogue also spoke out against the cull and said not all other alternatives had been fully explored.

Meanwhile, North Fork Environmental Council vice-president Dan Durett of Southold said from a film perspective, "Bambi has become the new 'Jaws.'"

Members of the group Hunters for Deer, LLC, founded by Mike Tessitore, came out in force to protest the plan and grill the board for answers.

Some questioned the process by which a negative declaration had been issued, meaning that the cull would have no negative environmental impact.

But Russell maintained that the town had held numerous discussions and forums and has spent eight years studying the health and environmental threats posed by deer.

Tempers flared at the meeting when Chamberlin demanded to see a copy of paperwork for the newly designated Long Island Farm Bureau for Deer Management Program, a name she said had never been discussed before. She demanded to see a copy of the paperwork. Town Attorney Martin Finnegan said it was her right, but that she would have to file a Freedom of Information Law request.

"This is not right, it's not fair, and it's not legal," she said, adding that the town's actions could have dire impacts on tourism. "This is shameful. When people find out how this will be done, with frangible bullets and drop nets, they are horrified, they are ashamed of you. Southold will become the capital of the largest deer cull in the history of New York State. Do you think people will want to buy your wine or your farm stand products. Boy, will you have a farm problem then."

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.

Janet Lapey February 16, 2014 at 02:11 PM
Owl, I'm glad you understand why deer removal decreases the tick population. No other intervention has stopped Lyme epidemics. This is a public health crisis which worsens each year. You seem to be in denial. There has never been a Lyme epidemic in the absence of deer. One shouldn't have to move to the city because you value deer more than people.
Janet Lapey February 16, 2014 at 02:15 PM
Rose, tick-borne illnesses KILL KILL KILL people. The mortality rate of Powassan viral encephalitis, carried by the deer tick, is 10 percent. There is no specific treatment.
the owl February 16, 2014 at 05:03 PM
Janet,Your concerns about Lyme and other tick-borne diseases are valid and not one soul has argued here that they are not. However, with the extent of your concern, the city might be an ideal venue to consider. I have never encountered a tick there and the rodents are "controlled", while not perfect it offers a fast and nearby solution. Unless you propose to kill every deer and other host on Long Island, you will continue to regularly encounter ticks here, surely you realize that; most residents here do and take precautions but nevertheless we will not sign on for slaughter. End of story.
Janet Lapey February 16, 2014 at 05:23 PM
Owl, let's have a little common sense here. Deer removal reduces tick density from epidemic level to mere nuisance level. There's a big difference. It is much better to have the odds on our side.
Ellen Wexler February 17, 2014 at 12:35 PM
Hi Owl- what town do you live in? Do you spend full time in Southold Town? If so you nad your loved ones would be personally affected and aware of the extreme damage to the woodland habitats and the very personal issues we have all had with tick born diseases ever since the deer numbers swelled from 10 per sq mail to 60 15 years ago. I am sure by now you are aware of the facts on the life cycle of deer ticks- they need a large mammal for the blood to lay the thousands of eggs and Deer are the only large mammal ( humans tend to remove and kill ticks on their body.) Why do you repeat the mis information that the Town wants to "kill every deer"? It has been made very clear by all wildlife experts that we need a SUSTAINABLE level of 10 per sq miles so that the deer do not starve and the habitat can grow again and tick numbers would be greatly reduced. Every report- every meeting- every article has presented these facts.


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