Though ticks weren’t on the agenda at last Thursday’s North Haven Village Board meeting, several residents took to the podium to air grievances and share their feelings of being plagued by tick populations in the tiny village. They also demanded swift action from the board in combating ticks.
While Mayor Laura Nolan said the board has not “set any time frame” for taking action, she confirmed she and her fellow trustees were in the process of investigating the best ways to handle the tick problem.
In order to come to a decision, she explained, the board is “moving in a very measured way.”
Whether or not tick abatement will be specifically on the agenda at the next meeting has yet to be decided. However, Nolan confirmed that the board will update the public on its progress.
Meanwhile, the village board is “reading all the literature. We’re discussing finances [and] we’re discussing the science of it,” she explained.
“We are speaking to superiors, government officials in higher up positions. We are also taking this to a regional level… because North Haven is not alone in this problem,” Nolan added. “It’s the entire East End. It’s all of Eastern Suffolk.”
She also noted that any decisions made by the board would be the topic of a public hearing and would be posted in The Sag Harbor Express.
For residents at Thursday’s meeting, dealing with the pervasiveness of ticks — as well as what many of them refer to as an “epidemic” of Lyme Disease and other tick borne illnesses — is of the utmost importance.
Jack Flanagan, who has had Lyme Disease twice, told the board, “I know people who are getting sicker and sicker. So this is a public health issue, and it seems to have a bit of urgency in our minds.”
Residents Josephine De Vincenzi and Richard Gambino also spoke at the meeting, both for and against the idea of implementing a 4-Poster tick management plan in North Haven. The plan relies on dual-action feeding stations which are stocked with feed for deer and designed so that a powerful insecticide is applied to the animals’ necks as they eat.
In 2011, the Cornell Cooperative Extension finished a three-year study of the use of 4-Poster devices on Shelter Island, using North Haven Village as the control to assess tick populations. Researchers concluded there was a significant decline in tick populations in the testing areas when compared to the control samples in North Haven.
De Vincenzi has been in contact with Vincent Palmer, special assistant to the commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Palmer attended last month’s village board meeting and said the DEC was in favor of giving North Haven Village a license to use a 4-Poster tick management plan in the village.
“Mr. Palmer continues to stand by his statement that the 4-Poster Device is an amazing tool that is highly effective and a safe method for dramatically reducing tick populations,” said De Vincenzi.
But according to Gambino, some individuals have been misquoting studies about the method and making claims that do not actually appear in reports.
“There is no evidence anywhere in the 4-Poster experiment that it reduces the incidence of any disease — Lyme disease or any other disease,” asserted Gambino. “The idea that you’re going to eliminate 95 percent of ticks anywhere — North Haven or [elsewhere] — is quixotic. If you know anything about ticks, they multiply like crazy.”
Gambino added, “According to the EPA, permethrin [the insecticide used in 4-Poster devices] is highly toxic to fish, cats, honeybees and other insects that are beneficial to us.”
As the merits of the 4-Poster system are being debated, another alternative brought up at the meeting was the culling of the deer herd, which is already a method practiced by the Village of North Haven.
While De Vincenzi likened hunting deer to “killing your neighbor’s Golden Retriever,” she agreed the deer population in North Haven presents a threat.
“A multiple approach needs to be pursued that should include not only the culling of the deer, but also the use of products…to control the Lyme vector in the white-footed mouse population, and the proven technology of the 4-Poster Program,” she said.
The next North Haven Village board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 2 at 5 p.m.