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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.


Frank T February 15, 2014 at 11:07 AM
Rose Kookay you left out fire and brimstone will fall upon Southold for centuries!
Frank T February 15, 2014 at 11:16 AM
Val that program is not working in Cayuga Heights. Their primary form of deer removal is from vehicle collisions.
Ellen Wexler February 15, 2014 at 11:32 AM
They have VERY FEW DEER IN A SMALL AREA: "The Ithaca Journal reports, Cayuga Heights( Cornell University area ) spends $35K to sterilize 12 does: The NY Town spends $2,984 per deer in sterilization program The village will begin with the surgical sterilization of 20-60 does within a two-year period, followed by the culling of the remainder of the herd. The first phase of sterilization is estimated to take two years at an average cost of $1,200 per doe, according to the statement. The latest round of village deer sterilizations removed ovaries from 12 deer in December and cost taxpayers $35,808.Does were shot with tranquilizer darts and taken to a temporary surgical facility, according to a report by White Buffalo Inc. The company conducted the sterilizations - were well above early estimates, set at $1,000 per animal. The cost for the December sterilizations was $2,984 per deer. “The cost per deer rises when you’re trying to pick the last few out,” Cayuga Heights Mayor Kate Supron said. A high percentage of sterilized does is crucial for deer population control, she added. During December 2012, the village spent $148,315 to remove ovaries from 137 female deer, an average of $1,082. For the 2013 fiscal year, Cayuga Heights spent $8,294 in legal consulting fees on deer population control, and $21,277 for a Cornell University study on the number of deer in the village. So will the plan even work? No, under current estimates it still will leave the deer population 4-5 times the environmentally healthy level, as the Journal further reports: Paul Curtis, a wildlife specialist in Cornell’s Department of Natural Resources, said the population is well above what’s healthy for the environment. Curtis recommended that suburban communities, such as Cayuga Heights, have deer population densities below 15 to 20 deer per square mile. Supron said a 10 percent to 15 percent drop in the village’s deer herd is expected. Most village deer are no longer breeding, and others are being killed by cars or natural causes. “That would still leave us with over 100 deer per square mile,” Supron said.
John J. Rasweiler IV February 15, 2014 at 12:07 PM
Val, I communicate regularly with the scientists who have been sterilizing deer in Cayuga Heights and on the adjacent Cornell campus. They agree completely that this approach will not solve eastern Long Island's deer problem because of the enormity of the task. Even 5 years after having surgically sterilized 90% of the deer on the Cornell campus, the population has only been roughly stabilized and not reduced. The Fire Island study is hardly the success story you believe. By law all contracepted deer in NYS must be permanently tagged; that is not a requirement on Fire Island, which is governed by National Park Service rules. To catch and tag deer is challenging and expensive (about $500 per deer initially, but rising to $2000-3000 per deer as a higher proportion of the herd is vaccinated). Furthermore, 90% of the herd would have to be vaccinated within a short period for the program to ultimately have any success, and treated deer would then have to periodically be revaccinated to maintain their infertility. Imagine the complexity of that task in a town the size of Southold (nearly 50 square miles neglecting Fisher's Island). One highly-respected deer expert familiar with the Fire Island project has told me that he does not consider it a success. The deer population is still way above the desired density, and deer-related problems (e.g. Lyme disease) persist, as would be expected. Finally, all of the above are experimental scientific studies. Fertility control is not an approved deer management option in New York State.
Val February 15, 2014 at 08:20 PM
See the article in the New York Times, "A Kinder, Gentler Way to Thin the Deer Herd." The same person who assisted the program on Fire Island which was successful there (which you denied that success) is also helping the Westxhester town of Hastings-on-Hudson manage their deer population (inundated with deer by the way) in a HUMANE, NON-VIOLENT way. We don't need to kill does and fawns here in order to accomplish our goals of (1) public safety and (2) restoring the balance of our ecosystem. We are known for our wine, known for our produce, known for our beaches, known for our restaurants, known for the peace and tranquility of the area. Therefore, we should also be known for our love and preservation of our wildlife. It just makes sense. Why be known for limited, archaic thinking? NONE of the other towns that originally signed on to this program are participating any longer. We surely stand out like a sore thumb, and if we continue with the cull and kill deer, we will come out on the bottom instead of on the top where we could be.
Rose Kay February 15, 2014 at 08:21 PM
I hope the self appointed executioners of the deer will be on hand to personally witness the gruesome horrible and painful death sentence you gave them. You can see your mean spirited decision unfold as the animals cry out in agony. What kind of person inflicts this cruelty on another living being? This is Southold .............TheTown Without Pity.
Janet Lapey February 15, 2014 at 09:20 PM
Val, birth control may be kinder and gentler but it's also useless. It does not decrease the deer population enough to combat Lyme and other tick-borne illness. It also costs a fortune. Without deer control this area will be known as a beautiful but toxic place where people contract horrible life-ruining diseases. According to the CDC's website, patients with untreated infection can develop arthritis, shooting pains, numbness and tingling in hands and feet, and memory problems months to years after infection. Many people are untreated because they are not diagnosed. The tick is missed and the symptoms are non-specific except for the rash which is often not present. Even when diagnosed, "10-20 percent of patients with Lyme disease have symptoms that last months to years after being treated with antibiotics. These symptoms can include muscle and joint pains,cognitive defects, sleep disturbance, or fatigue." It is the opposite of archaic to combat this health care crisis with the one intervention shown to work: deer. Reduction.
Janet Lapey February 15, 2014 at 09:30 PM
Rose, deer reduction is only intervention which has successfully stopped Lyme epidemics. Reading my previous comment about symptoms persisting even when treated, as reported by the CDC, you should wonder what kind of person inflicts this cruelty on another by preventing effective deer control. Perhaps you should volunteer as a home health aide so you can personally witness how you've wrecked their lives. It's you who are the " person without pity."
Ellen Wexler February 15, 2014 at 11:30 PM
Besides the irrefutable facts that other commenters have presented- (birth control for deer in an area as large as Southold is not feasible and illegal in NY State) - animals with birth control hormones can not be eaten. This fact might upset our hunters and their families
the owl February 16, 2014 at 07:34 AM
Those who support the order of execution have gone to great lengths here to educate the "fanatics" and those of us you assume to be ignorant. Thank you for the information, it has been read and considered. The information has however apparently failed to change the opinions of those opposed to your slaughter. You made your lethal decision, the need to continually and at great length continue to justify it indicates to me at least that you may now be troubled by your decision. And yes, some who know you personally may very well forever regard you differently, you have joined an infamous category of folk who have voted for mass slaughter of female deer and their fawns. We live with the consequences of our decisions.
John J. Rasweiler IV February 16, 2014 at 07:41 AM
Val, the facts are that the Hastings project is merely a 5 year experimental study to determine the long-term effectiveness of two contraceptive vaccines. It will involve no more than 60 deer and is not an approved deer management project. The complexity of the undertaking and limited expectations may be seen in the research proposal and project license issued by the NYS DEC. These are posted on the web site of the Village of Hastings-on-Hudson (http://hastingsgov.org/Pages/HastingsNY_WebDocs/deer/deer). This is very serious business. Let us work with facts rather than emotion. Given the current state of the art, it is unlikely that any proposal by the Town of Southold to manage its deer population by means of fertility control could ever pass the review required by the NYS Environmental Quality Review Act. That is because treated deer would continue to inflict severe, long term harm upon the environment, while there is a reasonable alternative that would not (humane culling). It is most regrettable that the continued, detrimental effects of treated deer on public health and safety do not merit similar review.
Rose Kay February 16, 2014 at 07:54 AM
I believe in the near future the people who call for the grotesque and torturous death of the deer will some day be held accountable for their horrendous state sanctioned animal cruelty. It is more than well-established that the abuse of animals can be a “gateway behavior” to violence against humans. Senator Greg Ball of Patterson, who sponsored the bill, addressed this very point: Persons who commit crimes against animals represent some of the worst kind of people, and often expand their carnage to their neighbors and the larger community. Most people can agree that the level of respect and kindness shown for animals — creatures who cannot speak for themselves, or protect themselves and are easily abused and taken advantage of — is a fine predictor of how a person will treat their peers. Just as Megan’s Law was created to protect children from repeated sex offenders, Ball’s bill will protect animals from animal abusers. The future is on their side. The wheels of justice turn slowly but the animals including our wildlife will prevail.
John J. Rasweiler IV February 16, 2014 at 08:46 AM
Owl and Rose, it is unhelpful to denigrate people whom you really do not know. I have actually worked to conserve deer elsewhere in the World, where they are being hunted to extinction. I have long endeavored to preserve animals widely perceived as "nuisance species" through invited public lectures, newspaper and TV interviews, hours of patient discussion with ordinary citizens, regularly taking wildlife officials out in the field for training purposes, and advising government officials on how to conserve wildlife. I have also served as the scientific consultant on a project to save an endangered species. I and many others in the conservation community recognize that deer numbers on eastern Long Island must be sharply reduced to restore the health of our forests and preserve other species. Unfortunately, many of us also recognize that to achieve these goals humane culling must be used as a management tool. That does not make us the "worst kind of people".
Janet Lapey February 16, 2014 at 09:13 AM
Rose and Owl will go down in history as being among those who spread deadly and debilitating diseases by preventing the only known effective measures against them. My neighbor has had Lyme three times, the last requiring hospitalization to receive IV antibiotics for Lyme meningitis. In addition to Lyme arthritis her memory is now shot. Employers don't generally like employees with memory defects. Even if Lyme victims are lucky enough to be diagnosed and treated, up to 20 percent will still have symptoms for years. Add to this the ever-increasing number of other serious diseases carried by the deer tick which are increasing in incidence. Powassan viral encephalitis has a formidable mortality; babesiosis, like malaria, requires different medicines, and often a patient has more than one infection, complicating diagnosis and treatment. Inasmuch as we are not a 100 percent vegetarian society, animals are killed all the time. On the other hand, aiding and abetting the demise of people is a felony.
the owl February 16, 2014 at 10:42 AM
John, I thank you for succinctly detailing your position and providing the science you put forth to support your decision. I respect the science, although my research on various issues has revealed that there are sufficient studies to support or not support most issues. So, there is no intention to denigrate you simply because I and others with opposing opinion have been labeled “fanatics” in earlier posts. But I assume I am permitted an opposing opinion? With your considerable knowledge and experience on conservation issues, I can only ask why oh why you, as a conservationist, you did not put your very considerable expertise to work much earlier in defense of the deer, the geese, the swans, etc. The overpopulation problem did not occur overnight, it has been years in the making; years during which contraceptive programs could have, by now, helped slow the birth rate so that such large scale slaughter would not have been considered necessary. The same is true with the latest case of the mule swan, whose numbers have been steadily increasing but again the NY DEC has taken no steps to halt the growth through more humane means. The swan song for them will be similar to that decreed for the deer. And swans are not hosts to ticks, as far as I am aware, but too are under death sentence “for polluting” our waterways, etc. As mentioned earlier, Janet, I can personally attest to the very debilitating effects of tick-borne disease, they are on-going in my case, and without doubt post an extremely serious and debilitating threat to humans, certainly one meriting constant vigilance from those of us spend much of our time in outdoors. The debilitating effects on millions of heart disease, stroke, cancer and the ever-increasing incidence of respiratory diseases particularly in children are of equally great concern. Deaths and health impacts related to road rage, drunk driving, cell phone use and texting are growing issues. We could also get hit by falling chunks of ice and snow, in a road accident, shot at the mall or at the movies….ours is an increasingly violent society and there are no guarantees in life. But and this is my opinion which I assume I am permitted, the target in this case for scientists should be combating the ticks, not to find ways to support the mass killing of animals.
Frank T February 16, 2014 at 10:45 AM
owl, is it ok to kill ticks?
the owl February 16, 2014 at 11:03 AM
Great question, Frank. With some species contraception is recommended.
Sandi Raciti February 16, 2014 at 12:00 PM
It would be in the best interest of the Southhold Town Board and others involved in this conversation to read the article that was just posted in the Speak Out section of this paper.
Janet Lapey February 16, 2014 at 12:14 PM
Owl, the whole point of deer reduction is combatting ticks. Ticks come from tick eggs and over 90 percent of tick eggs come from ticks on deer. This is why Lyme epidemics have been stopped by deer removal.
the owl February 16, 2014 at 12:30 PM
Janet, the whole point of my message is to combat the ticks, NOT KILL THE DEER!!!!!!!!!Which part of this simple statement do you fail to comprehend? and do read the recommended SPEAK OUT article shown on PATCH.
the owl February 16, 2014 at 12:46 PM
Like deer, and rodents, humans also act as unwitting hosts to many viruses which, without malicious intent, we sometimes transmit to others. History documents how many indigenous peoples were wiped out or had their numbers decimated by diseases brought to the New World for example. Should we begin eliminating human hosts? Combat the problem, not the hosts. And how about beginning with contraception of the bucks which, after all, are responsible for impregnating the does, there are likely fewer bucks than there are does and fawns.
Janet Lapey February 16, 2014 at 12:54 PM
Owl, you keep bringing up other situations which are dealt with differently. Obviously we don't combat human viral diseases by eliminating human hosts. Stop being ridiculous. Removing deer is the best way to combat ticks because the deer are the primary source of tick eggs. Why can't you understand that?
Janet Lapey February 16, 2014 at 01:06 PM
Sandi, the Speak Out article is typical of the pro-deer propaganda to which we have been subjected all these years. It is wrong on many counts. Deer removal has stopped Lyme epidemics, and other animals have not been able to replace the deer. The article promotes a defeatist attitude but we are Americans and we have the ability to cull the deer down to the appropriate level. This should be a regional effort and the deer activists are trying desperately to prevent this through law suits, etc. Deer levels must first be lowered and then maintained at that level. Before the deer plague hit us, the great outdoors was enjoyable, and we can return to those days.
the owl February 16, 2014 at 01:21 PM
Janet, lack of understanding is not the issue. I am simply opposed to the "method" proposed for solving a tick problem by slaughtering deer. The problem with ticks will continue even if you slaughter every living deer or rodent in Southold, why cannot you comprehend that? Have you considered city life---a change of scene may assuage your fears of the great outdoors?
Rose Kay February 16, 2014 at 01:24 PM
Maybe people are tired of the same old mantra...."KILL KILL KILL " and realize a humane solution is best solution for all.
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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