By Kathryn G. Menu
North Haven Village will attempt to aggressively cull its deer herd this year rather than apply to the state for approval to implement a 4-Poster tick abatement plan.
Following another lengthy discussion at the village’s Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night, trustee Jeff Sander said he belived culling the herd would be the most effective tool in decreasing tick populations, therefore reducing the incidence of tick borne illnesses among residents.
“There seems to be a lot of evidence, in things I have read and other research, that if you get rid of deer or perhaps the ticks on deer you significantly eliminate the incidence of ticks and Lyme disease,” said Sander noting that in communities like Fishers Island, culling has proved an effective tool in lowering the incidence of tick borne illnesses.
While North Haven’s deer population has decreased, said Sander — aerial photos from 2008 show the herd at 69 or 70 deer down from 450 over a decade ago, he added, “Many residents have noted the herd seems significantly high this year and I would be one of them.”
Sander added the village plans to do another aerial scan in late winter 2013 to assess North Haven’s actual deer population.
“I believe the most effective way to address the situation is to continue the hunting program and accelerate it,” said Sander.
While Sander admitted he doesn’t love the idea of killing deer, he said research shows if the herd is reduced to between seven and 10 percent per square mile (or 25 to 30 deer in all) the number of ticks will be significantly reduced.
He added the cost of the 4-Poster program, which involves deer feeding stations and the use of a powerful tickicide, can cost around $100,000 annually. With no monies budgeted this fiscal year to implement the program and questions about the environmental impact of the tickicide, Sanders felt culling was the best step forward at this time.
According to North Haven Mayor Laura Nolan, she has already begun working with building inspector Al Daniels to identify property owners willing to allow hunters on their property and will attempt to expand that number.
North Haven resident Brian McIver, who owns six acres, said he supported culling, but said if this was the path forward, the Village of North Haven would need to be more proactive in helping residents apply for permits and understand what is required.
Under North Haven Village code, property owners can apply for a deer nuisance permit, which allows hunters to hunt during season on their properties, provided homeowners within 500-feet from where a hunter will cull on that property agree.
Nolan said she would study where new permits would best be served based on what is already out there in North Haven. Nolan added ultimately she was concerned about the concentration of permethrin used in the 4-poster system, noting 10-percent of the solution is pure permethrin, and the impact that could have on deer meat or the environment.
However, for Peter Boody, editor of The Shelter Island Reporter and a North Haven resident, many of these questions and concerns have already been addressed not only in studies across the country, but in the years long process it took to get the 4-Poster program implemented on Shelter Island.
From 2007 to 2010, Shelter Island studied the impact of the 4-Poster tick abatement system, installing 60 feeding stations armed with permethrin around the island. While those opposed to the concept in North Haven have argued there is little information to show how successful it is at combating tick borne illness, Shelter Island officials and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) say drag tests performed by Cornell Cooperative Extension showed a significant decline in ticks on the island.
Late last month, the Shelter Island Town Board approved the installation of 20 4-Poster devices around the island in a continued effort at tick mitigation.
On Tuesday, Boody also argued that on Shelter Island there were trace amounts of permethrin found in the deer, the same amount found in deer from North Haven, which allows spraying of permethrin and other insecticides.
“I must say I think that if the 4-Poster was done here after three years we would have a lot less spraying,” said Boody adding with 40 devices sitting on Shelter Island it was possible North Haven Village could lease them for a reasonable price.
Richard Gambino, a staunch objector to implementing 4-Poster devices in North Haven continued to question the cost, effectiveness and safety of the devices. He wondered who would want to eat venison if they knew deer had been exposed to permethrin.
Richard Kelly, with the Shelter Island based Coalition for Sustainable Fish and Wildlife on Shelter Island, said permethrin is highly toxic to fish. Kelly added he did not believe the study could go far enough to show it was 4-Poster devices, rather than other variables like weather, that impacted the number of ticks on Shelter Island during the test period.
Janalyn Travis Messer, president of the Shelter Island Deer and Tick Management Foundation, a not-for-profit able to collect funds from residents and other sources to help fund the 4-Poster study on Shelter Island, said her organization could help if North Haven decided to look at using the 4-Poster devices.
Messer said unlike sprays, which are water based and enter the Peconic Estuary through runoff easily, the permethrin used on deer is oil based. Messer said that meant it did not contribute to runoff.
North Haven resident Chris Gangemi said as a father, he was more concerned about the spraying in North Haven — six of his neighbors spray once a month using permethrin — and the impact that could have on his daughters.
“Whatever you choose to do whether culling the herd or the 4-Poster program, I think it would be great to have some ordinances on spraying,” said Gangemi. “It seems to be worse than ever. It can’t be the Wild West, I am going to spray every month or every three weeks.”
“When you are spraying you are allowing hundreds of thousands of gallons each year,” said Messer. “With 4-Poster, Shelter Island was lucky if it used two gallons a year.”
“But it is more concentrated,” said North Haven trustee Diane Skilbred.