An ambitious plan promoted by the Long Island Farm Bureau to enlist the support of East End municipalities in its quest to hire federal sharpshooters to reduce the deer population it says has wreaked havoc with local farms was dealt a blow this week when East Hampton Town and Village, citing lawsuits and other concerns, dropped out of the program.
The absence of their sponsorship — and the $40,000 they were expected to contribute to help underwrite its cost — doesn’t mean the program is dead. The farm bureau, which received a $200,000 state grant for the program, can still work with local farmers to allow hunters on their property.
But it does put an end to the first truly regional effort to deal with what most people agree is an overabundance of deer and the problems they cause from the destruction of crops and gardens, collisions with motor vehicles and the spread of tick-borne diseases.
In retrospect, the farm bureau and municipalities that had originally agreed to the cull may have been overly optimistic in thinking that their plan to get hunters in the field this winter would not generate heated opposition from animal rights activists or questions about whether they needed state permits before proceeding.
This week, even though it dropped out of the culling program, the East Hampton Town Board pledged that it would continue its efforts to gain a better handle on the deer population by considering a combination of increased hunting and other measures. Meanwhile, Southampton Town, which never signed onto the farm bureau’s program, is forging ahead with its own deer management plan. North Haven Village, which has been proactive in reducing its deer herd, on Tuesday gave the go-ahead for its own professional hunt.
We maintain our stance that a cull, coupled with non-lethal methods, is a necessary component to reduce the deer population. The population has grown beyond what our ecology can support, and needs to be pared down. While we are pleased to see towns and villages committing to their own deer management programs, we hope that a regional approach is not lost in the shuffle.