The Long Island Farm Bureau has received $200,000 from the state of New York, and it is poised to use that money to address a problem which has long plagued the entire region — the overabundance of deer on the East End.
Beginning in February, the farm bureau will bring USDA sharpshooters to the East End to cull the deer population, now estimated at 25,000.
The farm bureau is partnering with villages and towns and those that want the sharpshooters in their area are being asked to contribute anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 to help pay for the program and extends it’s reach.
The farm bureau is giving priority to municipalities that have committed funds, but the goal is to help its farmer members, and if time and money allow, sharpshooters will go into municipalities that haven’t kicked in and cull deer on private land where their services have been requested.
While most residents would agree that the overabundance of deer have become a huge problem in the area, some 4,000 people have signed a petition by the Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island which opposes this plan based on what it feels are inhumane methods of culling — the luring of deer to bait stations, pursuit from mobile units or tree stands, or capture in drop nets before being shot. Instead, the plan calls for non-lethal methods of controlling the deer such as immuno-contraception.
There was a time, not that long ago, when seeing a deer in your backyard on the East End was cause for celebration — that’s how rare it was. But times, and deer numbers, have changed to the point where the population is becoming unmanageable. Let’s face it, nobody likes the idea of killing deer in this fashion. It’s never a pleasant undertaking. But while we’d like to say non-lethal methods can accomplish the same thing as culling, at this point we don’t believe methods like immuno-contraception are a cost effective and realistic alterative based on the difficulty in implementing these methods in the field.
In the meantime, we fear this is a problem that has become an epidemic — literally, based on the alarming number of tick-borne illnesses people we all know are suffering with locally. We understand there are other animals that spread these diseases, but deer are a primary host for ticks and often provide the first blood meal they need in order to reprudece.
Deer also cause car accidents on roadways and they have caused incalculable damage both to backyard foliage and the income producing crops of our farmers.
So we appreciate the fact that the Long Island Farm Bureau has chosen to take the $200,000 it received from the State of New York in this year’s budget and use it to address such a large problem on the East End. While we don’t know what the end result will be, as far as the number of deer that will be taken, at least something is being done.
We also like the idea that towns and villages are being asked to take part if they choose, and feel this could be a first step in developing a regional approach to deer management that might end up making a big difference in the long run.
But this is just one piece of the puzzle and we appreciate the successes that have also been seen through the use of non-lethal methods like the 4-Poster system which doesn’t reduce deer numbers, but does decrease the number of ticks living on them.
There’s no such thing as a single solution.
The time has come to develop a serious long term and comprehensive plan for deer management on the East End — one that relies not just on culling or on non-lethal methods of control, but which strikes a balance and utilizes all approaches to effect real reduction in the herd to the point where, one day soon, we might be able to get excited again (in a good way) when we see a deer grace our yard.