Tag Archive | "DEC"

Wildlife Activists Discuss Alternatives to Sterilization

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Wild deer in the woods in Amagansett, N.Y. on June 23rd, 2015

A wild deer in the woods in Amagansett. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Mara Certic

The people of East Hampton are divided and conflicted about what to do with white-tailed deer. While many say that reducing the herd could lead to a decrease in the instances of Lyme disease and would slash the number of car accidents, the general consensus at a forum hosted by the East Hampton Group for Wildlife on Thursday was that the deer problem has been exaggerated and should be reevaluated.

Larry Penny, East Hampton Town’s former natural resources director, kicked off the evening by going through a slideshow of various wooded areas on the East End.

“The deer don’t actually eat the understory to the degree they say they do,” Mr. Penny explained, while pointing out particularly lush huckleberry and blueberry plants in a forest in East Hampton. “Trying to find somewhere without a lot of understory if really tough,” he said, “Nobody’s eating it around here right now,” he added.

Randy Parsons, a former East Hampton Town Board member, gave a brief presentation on 4-poster programs, which he described as “Frontline for deer.” The feeding stations, he explained, transfer permetherin onto the deer as they eat, killing the ticks that try to feed on them.

“I do think if you treat certain areas, for example Barcelona Neck, you could substantially reduce the tick population because the deer herd there probably live there,” he said. He said that there is money in the state budget for East Hampton to buy the bait stations, but it is still trying to raise private funds to cover the cost of the maintenance and operation of the 4-poster program.

The Group for Wildlife announced the forum soon after several deer, which were supposedly sterilized in East Hampton Village through a program run by the organization, While Buffalo, which works with municipalities to control wildlife populations,  died from complications giving birth. Much of the conversation at the forum centered on the controversial sterilization program and its alternatives.

Ellen Crain, an experienced pediatrician and the wife of Bill Crain, the wildlife group’s founder, went through some of the details of deer contraception which many say is safer than sterilization because it’s reversible, temporary and does not require surgical intervention.

Ilissa Meyer with the Equine Veterinarian’s Group, and Dr. Paul Hollander, a small animal vet, said that the village’s project was concerning because there did not seem to be sufficient follow up.

Dr. Tony DeNicola, president of White Buffalo, said over the phone this week that he personally travelled to the East End after sterilized doe number 57 died while trying to give birth to two stillborn fawns.

“We always follow animals for at least a week,” Mr. DeNicola said of the typical process following the ovarectomies the organization performs. “Because if they’re going to die, you’re going to see in that week that they have problems.

The body of the first tagged deer to die following a stillbirth this year, doe number 57, was taken to the town dump before anyone thought to have the state Department of Environmental Conservation perform a necropsy.

A sterilized deer that died in similar circumstances a few weeks ago was taken to be necropsied by the DEC almost two weeks ago. Representatives from the DEC did not provide any information about the results of the necropsy by the time of this paper’s publication.

While some wildlife activists have said that the ovarectomies likely caused the birth defects and eventual deaths, professionals say that they cannot understand how this surgery would have affected deer in this way.

Dr. Paul Curtis, a wildlife specialist in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University, said this week that he had been involved in dozens and dozens of deer sterilization programs and does not see the connection between the surgery and the deaths.

Dr. Curtis did point out that Long Island soil is low in selenium, and that selenium deficiencies can lead to high numbers of stillbirths in livestock and, possibly, deer.

Ginnie Frati, the executive director of the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons, said over the phone this week that there is in fact a selenium deficiency here in the wild. Over the years, she said, the center has probably received about 10 calls over the years of stillbirths. In fact, she said, she saw an untagged deer running along Noyac Road a few weeks ago that appeared to be trying to give birth to a stillborn fawn.

“I personally wish they would leave the deer alone,” she added. “I think this is extreme and it’s very, very expensive.”

 

 

 

DEC Denies Sand Land Application To Expand

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The DEC denied a Noyac sand mining facility’s application for a 20-percent expansion after environmentalists spoke out. Photo by Mara Certic.

By Stephen J. Kotz

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, citing several major objections, last week rejected the expansion of the Sand Land mine and mulching facility in Noyac.

The operation, located on a 50-acre site off Millstone Road and Middle Line Highway and owned by Wainscott Sand and Gravel, has been the source of controversy for years, as the surrounding area has been transformed from woods to housing and the old Bridgehampton Race Circuit gave way to the exclusive Bridge
golf club.

Last year, the company sought a permit to expand the area it is mining for sand and dig another 40 deeper. The property’s current elevation is about 175 feet above sea level, and it has already dug some 65 feet below grade.

Although the regional office of the DEC originally ruled the expansion would not have serious environmental repercussions, environmentalists, neighbors, and town and county officials begged to differ and eventually convinced the DEC to hold a hearing on the application last November.

Primarily, concerns were raised that pollutants from the mulching operation would leach into the groundwater below. The area is designated as an aquifer protection district.

“This is the way the system is supposed to work,” said Elena Loreto, the president of the Noyac Civic Council, which opposed the expansion, after announcing the decision at the group’s meeting this week.  “Sand Land cannot expand. The DEC honored Governor Cuomo’s commitment to clean water, and this is why we have a DEC. It was a bipartisan effort to make sure that the DEC in Albany was notified because a lot of what we said to the Stony Brook regional office fell on deaf ears.”

Bob DeLuca, the president of the environmental organization the Group for the East End, concurred with Ms. Loreto. “I’m very happy that the Albany office had the foresight to take a closer look” at the application, he said. “If nothing else, it is a vindication of everyone who testified.”

Mr. DeLuca said it “defied logic” that the regional office focused solely on the application for the expansion of a mining permit and failed to take into consideration “the giant composting operation right on top of it.”

But John Tintle, the owner of Wainscott Sand and Gravel, who has steadfastly maintained that operation has not caused any pollution and is an important resource for the East End, said he was stunned by the DEC’s decision and suggested it implied political meddling.

“This was something that was basically approved and then was denied by the Number 2 at  the DEC,” he said of the denial letter written by Marc S. Gerstman, the DEC’s executive deputy commissioner. “It’s not very often that the Number 2 comes down and weighs in on a mining permit decision.”

Mr. Tintle has charged that Robert Rubin, the owner of the neighboring Bridge golf club, who is required to provide extensive water monitoring on his own property, has stirred up opposition to Sand Land because it abuts a number of house lots that are part of his development.

He added that the reason the regional office did not take into consideration his mulching was that it has no jurisdiction over it. And he added, the DEC considers the construction debris recycling to be a minor use that requires a simple permit application.

Mr. Tintle has 30 days to appeal the decision, but said he did not want to discuss his plans.

Besides citing environmental concerns, including both the town’s and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services’ worries about groundwater pollution, Mr. Gerstman cited the death of a worker last year at another operation Mr. Tintle owns in East Quogue as well as other safety violations.

Although Mr. Tintle insisted that he has always remedied yet any violations he has been cited for, Mr. DeLuca said the DEC was wise in denying the application because if the operation were to pollute the groundwater, taxpayers would likely be on the hook for the for cleanup.

“We’re all better served by this approach,” he said. “If there is a way to protect the groundwater, we ought to do it now instead of waiting.”

New Year Brings New Hunting Seasons

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Hunting seasons in Suffolk County were extended this year as a way to deal with the large deer population on the East End. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt and Jill Musnicki. 

By Mara Certic

Several amendments to New York State hunting regulations have gone into effect this year in an effort to encourage recreational hunters to increase the deer harvest as one means of managing the expanding white-tailed deer population on the East End.

The regular bowhunting season, which historically has ended on December 31 and includes weekends, will now be extended through January 31. The special firearms season, which began on Sunday, January 4, will end on January 31 and will, unlike previous years, allow for weekend hunting.

These are two of the amendments that came from legislation sponsored by State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle.

“The recent population explosion of white-tailed deer on Eastern Long Island threatens public health, public safety, personal property, and the environment,” Mr. Thiele said in a release.

“Local municipal deer management plans describe the uncontrolled increase in population as an emergency, requiring immediate action. Without controlling the deer population, human health and safety will continue to be put in jeopardy,” he added.

In response to the new regulations, East Hampton Town has updated its code to try to keep bowhunters and shotgun hunters as far apart from one another as possible.

The town only has jurisdiction over town-owned parkland, with private properties and state parkland coming under the purview of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“On town properties, where big game gun hunting is occurring, bowhunting is not allowed at all,” explained Andrew Gaites, the senior environmental analyst in the town’s Department of Land Acquisition and Management.

“However, the town has plenty of properties open to bowhunting with no gun hunting allowed, so we updated our code to reflect that,” he added.

The changes were made in order to prevent hunter conflict, Mr. Gaites said. The required setback for bowhunters was recently reduced from 500 feet to 150 feet, giving them more opportunities than shotgun hunters. This new law will give shotgun hunters full access to the few lands that remain open.

Town permit quotas have been increased to reflect deer management needs, and next year several new permitting requirements will come into effect.

Despite the extended season, the state has declined to open its parkland in Montauk to additional hunting, meaning there will be no January bowhunting or any weekend gun hunting.  There will also be no weekend gun hunting in Noyac, according to the DEC.

Bill Crain, founder of the East Hampton Group for Wildlife, spoke up at East Hampton’s work session on Tuesday morning, admonishing the town for allowing weekend hunting on town-owned land.

“Who suffers from this decision?” Mr. Crain asked. “The deer. I imagine what it’s like to be a deer out there. It’s just very upsetting to have any empathy for these animals.”

Human residents of the East End will also suffer, he said, as the new regulations will make weekend walks in the woods more dangerous.

“Another victim is democratic decision-making,” Mr. Crain said, adding that the town should have publicized its hunting rule changes.

For more information about hunting in Suffolk County visit dec.ny.gov/outdoor/hunting.

Frank Quevedo

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By Mara Certic

Frank Quevedo is the executive director at the South Fork Museum of Natural History. He spoke to us about the conservation needs of the state and on the East End.

 The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recently released a list of the Species of Greatest Conservation Need, which named 186 species of animals, which are in need of immediate conservation action. What were your thoughts on first seeing the report?

This is just a revision of an existing list that already came out. So this list that just came out right before Christmas is the updated, revised list from the DEC letting the public know and environmentalists know that these species are now of greatest concern and we need to implement management plans now, or else in 10 years their populations won’t be sustainable. So this is really concerning to see this list—and there’s a lot of species on this list that we didn’t really know were in danger of decline.

Are there any species in particular that you were surprised to see listed?

 The one that stands out, right off the bat, for high priority species of greatest concern is the American black duck. As a birder, I see a lot of American black ducks around, and I wasn’t really concerned about their population because I see them pretty often. What I think this represents is that the American black duck is now hybridizing with the American Mallard. Another thing that jumped out at me is like the wood thrush. Our understory in our woodlands are being depleted because of a high deer population—the deer are really destroying our understory. A lot of these thrushes and warblers that nest on the ground in that understory are not having that habitat anymore. What it really comes down to is that our habitats need to be focused on as a whole, for all of these species. All these species are connected, and we’re connected to the natural world too, so we have to really focus on the ecosystem as a whole, rather than the individual species. That’s just my opinion. The primary reason for this, however, is habitat loss and habitat development. And now we’re in a crisis mode, now we have a 10-year window to do something about it and this should have been implemented many years ago.

In addition to all of the animals put onto the list, 18 species were removed from the list and their populations were deemed secure within the state. Is this due to conservation efforts or natural events?

It’s funny, ecosystems and how animals interact with one another is very complex. The reasoning behind why Coopers hawks are removed from the SGCN list probably has to do with a high abundance of more prey available for these predators. Maybe they’re thriving because there isn’t enough habitat for birds to hide in—Coopers hawks feed on other birds. Believe it or not, even though the Coopers hawk was taken off the list, there’s still an imbalance there. They’re taken off the list because something is thriving in their world, making them more abundant. I don’t have the scientific data to support my opinion here, I don’t know exactly why they were taken off the list, that’s something maybe the DEC can answer.

What are some of the things we can do here on the East End to continue and further conservation efforts? 

Education is not the solution, it’s the beginning point. Letting people understand how important biodiversity is in nature, how fragile ecosystems are, how sensitive the natural environment is. In such a short period of time, we’ve seen a decline in wildlife; whether it’s pollution, habitat fragmentation, climate change, whatever the factors are, it all comes down to educating people and making them understand the connection we have with nature, but also how sensitive it is too. So education is, without a doubt, first and foremost.

 

Opponents Urge DEC To Require Environmental Study for Sand Land

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Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Councilwoman Bridget Fleming show an aerial map of the Sand Land site to DEC Administrative Law Judge Molly McBride. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Sand Land Corporation, owned and operated by Wainscott Sand & Gravel Inc., submitted an application to the DEC to expand its operations by some 20 percent, adding nearly 5 acres and deepening the floor of the mine by an additional 40 feet. The current elevation is 175 feet and the floor is 65 feet below the original grade, as authorized by a New York State Mined Lands Reclamation Act permit that was issued to Sand Land in November 2013 and expires November 2018.

In July, the DEC decided the kind of extensive environmental review typically done in an environmental impact statement was not required for the site, which is located within the Town of Southampton Aquifer Protection Overlay District. Local lawmakers and environmentalists quickly spoke out against the ruling, calling for the DEC to rescind its determination, require a full environmental impact statement on the site and, many argued, to deny the application entirely.

In response to that criticism, the DEC held Wednesday’s public hearing, which was presided over by DEC Administrative Law Judge Molly McBride. Officials from New York State and the Southampton Town voiced their disapproval of the DEC’s actions, as did environmentalists, geologists and representatives from the Group for the East End, Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Defend H20, a group of neighbors of  site who are pursuing legal action against Sand Land, and other local civic groups.

Wainscott Sand & Gravel owner John Tintle and DEC Deputy Permit Administrator Mark Carrara listened to comments.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Councilwoman Bridget Fleming spoke on behalf of the town board, which has made protecting water quality on the East End a major concern.

The initial approval of Sand Land’s DEC mining permit in 1981, “was contingent on very specific water testing protocols,” said the supervisor, who urged the DEC to put Sand Land through all the protocols of regular ground and surface water testing “because of the sensitivity of this area and the fact that everyone is dependent on water quality here.”

Ms. Fleming said she does not understand how the DEC’s declaration could be possible and that monitoring water quality “would be required of any expansion on the East End landscape.”

“We require that [at the] golf course,” Ms. Throne-Holst said of the Bridge golf club, which lies adjacent to the mine and is required to adhere to regulations. “We have absolutely no clue why something like this…is not subjected to any kind of testing.”

“We sit directly to the north of Sand Land and we sit over this aquifer that’s so important to all of us,” said Greg Stanley, superintendent of grounds at the Bridge. “We work closely with the Town of Southampton and all of our application records are available at any moment to any citizen of the Town of Southampton.”

Mr. Stanley said the golf course embraces the town’s requirements, adding “it seems only reasonable that a property that sits on the same aquifer that we do be required” to undergo the same water quality monitoring process.

Group for the East End President Bob DeLuca told Justice McBride that the DEC “simply doesn’t want to take on the challenges associated with comprehensive review.” Forty years ago, he said, the state passed the State Environmental Quality Review Act to ensure complex environmental decisions at any size site were based on “comprehensive and transparent assessment” of all reasonable factors.

“Our concern is that we don’t believe that the DEC resisted to putting test wells in because they believe the groundwater is clean,” Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito said. “We believe the DEC’s concerned they will find the groundwater is contaminated and that unfortunately, they feel, opens up a can of worms. But, we’re saying open it up, deal with it—we need to assess the truth here. And if the site is clean, great, we put in a couple testers, but if it isn’t then we know we need to change the way we’re operating.”

“The concern is growing that the partnership between the DEC and sand mining is based on allowing sand mining at the risk of not living up to the mandate of protecting public health and our natural resources. That is the DEC’s primary mandate, and yet we feel it is becoming the second priority and not the first when it comes to sand mines,” added Ms. Esposito.

Citing legislation passed in the state assembly this year to address degrading water quality on Long Island and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent proclamation of water quality as a priority issue in New York State, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said the application arrived at a time when the “single issue of the degradation of water quality across Long Island—be it the surface water quality or our groundwater—is at huge crisis proportions.”

Calling the threshold that mandates an environmental impact statement “very low,” Assemblyman Thiele said the DEC needs to reverse its determination, undergo a comprehensive environmental review, and require groundwater monitoring of Sand Land.

Elena Loreto, president of the Noyac Civic Council, pointed to other environmental issues at the site, such as pollution, dust and traffic, saying there are “350 trucks that sail in and out of those roads” on a daily basis, and asked the DEC to partner with the town and require a full environmental impact statement.

Written comments about Sand Land’s permit application must be received by November 21, and should be sent to: NYSDEC Region 1, Att. Mark Carrara, Deputy Permit Administrator, SUNY Stony Brook, 50 Circle Road, Stony Brook, NY 11790.

Speaking for Mute Swans

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Both houses of the New York State Legislature passed a bill last week that would require the New York State Department of Conservation to try non-lethal management techniques in any management plan aimed at controlling the population of mute swans.

The legislation, co-sponsored by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. would require the DEC to hold public hearings in areas with mute swan populations with a minimum 45-day comment period before adopting any management plan for the estimated 2,200 mute swans in the state.

The DEC stirred controversy last year, when it declared plans to rid the state of non-native mute swans, which were introduced into New York State in the 1800s.

“Many wildlife experts, rehabilitators and environmentalists do not agree that exterminating the mute swan population is justified,” said Mr. Thiele in a press release. “In addition, there is debate amongst such experts about whether the planned eradication of the mute swan population is even minimally beneficial to the ecosystem or to our environment.”

“On the East End of Long Island, the mute swan is often visible in local ponds and waterways,” he continued. “My office has not received one report in all my years in office that the mute swan is a nuisance or an environmental problem. This legislation will require all concerned to take a step back and take a hard look before any irrevocable action is taken by the DEC.”

The bill is awaiting Governor Cuomo’s review.

DEC Will Revise Mute Swan Proposal

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Mute Swans at the East Hampton Nature Trail on Monday, 2/17/14

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has announced it is considering changes to a draft mute swan management plan following public outcry over plans to kill or capture all mute swans in the state by 2025.

According to DEC Commissioner Joe Martens, over the past five weeks, the DEC has received more than 1,500 comments on the plan from individuals and organizations, as well as more than 16,000 form letters and 30,000 signatures on various petitions.

“The draft plan for management for mute swans received significant public interest and DEC received many thoughtful and substantive comments,” Commissioner Martens said. “DEC is listening to these comments and concerns and will revise the draft plan and provide an opportunity for the public to comment on the revised plan this spring.”

In revising the plan, the DEC likely will acknowledge regional differences in status, potential impacts and desired population goals by setting varying goals for different regions of the state. In addition, the DEC will consider non-lethal means to achieve the management plan’s intended goals.

New recommendations are expected to be released this spring, and according to the DEC prior to finalizing the next draft, the DEC will meet with key stakeholder groups to ensure all potential management options are identified and considered.

New York Legislators Call For Two-Year Delay on DEC Plan to Eradicate State’s Mute Swan Population

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Mute swans at the East Hampton Nature Trail on February 17. Michael Heller photo.

Mute swans at the East Hampton Nature Trail on February 17. Michael Heller photo.

By Tessa Raebeck

New York officials have introduced legislation that would impose a two-year delay on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s plan to eradicate the state’s mute swan population by 2025.

Co-sponsored by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor, the bill would halt the DEC plan, which was introduced in December, and require the DEC to illustrate the “actual damage” the mute swan population causes to the environment or other species before exterminating the birds altogether.

“Wildlife experts, rehabilitators and environmentalists do not unanimously agree that exterminating the mute swan population is justified,” Mr. Thiele said in a statement. “In addition, there is debate amongst such experts about whether the planned eradication of the mute swan population is even minimally beneficial to the ecosystem or to our environment. Therefore, it is incumbent on the [DEC] to illustrate the necessity of eradicating this non-native species by demonstrating the actual damage to the environment or other species caused by mute swans.”

Mute swans are a species of swan named “mute” because they are less vocal than other swans. Native to Europe and Asia, they were brought to North America in the late 1870s due largely to their aesthetic appeal. Initially introduced in New York as ornaments on the estates of the lower Hudson Valley and Long Island, mute swans were present in the wild by the turn of the 20th century.

According to the DEC, the mute swan population had increased to about 2,000 statewide by 1993, peaked around 2,800 in 2002 and is now estimated at about 2,200, most heavily concentrated on Long Island and in the lower Hudson Valley.

A mute swan in East Hampton. Zachary Persico photo.

A mute swan in East Hampton. Zachary Persico photo.

“On the East End of Long Island, the mute swan is often visible in local ponds and waterways,” stated Mr. Thiele. “My office has not received one report in all my years in office that the mute swan is a nuisance or an environmental problem.”

The DEC says the non-native species causes a variety of environmental problems, “including aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation, displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality and potential hazards to aviation.”

Although opposed to the DEC plan, local ecologist Tyler Armstrong said there are ecological benefits to reducing the population. “It would help rare native waterfowl, as mute swans defend large nesting territories and exclude other birds from nesting, as well as competing with native birds for aquatic vegetation, like eelgrass,” he said.

The DEC has conducted “mute swan control activities” since 1993, but not to the extent permitted by the new management plan, which will include shooting free-ranging swans on public lands and private lands (with owner consent) and live capture and euthanasia.

North Haven resident Richard Gambino, professor emeritus at Queens College, said the DEC’s reasons for exterminating the swans are scientifically flawed.

“Everything affects the environment. The question is, do we have a sufficient reason, a necessary reason to kill them off, to exterminate them—and I don’t think we have one here,” he said, calling the plan “extreme.” The aggression shown by swans is evident in all mammals when they feel threatened and it’s arbitrary to call a species “alien” when it has been present for over 130 years, he added.

“If you’ve got a system such as nature—which is the most extreme system, with countless variables changing just about every second—we’re very limited in our ability to predict it,” he said, referring to the chaos theory.

Comments can be sent to the DEC by email to fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us with “Swan Plan” in the subject line by February 21.

New York Legislators Call For Two-Year Delay on DEC Plan to Eradicate State’s Mute Swan Population

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Virginia Briggs photo.

A mute swan swims in East Hampton. Virginia Briggs photo.

Editorial note: an updated version of this post can be found here.

By Tessa Raebeck

New York officials have introduced legislation that would impose a two-year delay on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) plan to eradicate the state’s mute swan population by 2025.

Co-sponsored by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor and state senators Tony Avella of Queens and Steve Cymbrowitz of Brooklyn, the bill would halt the DEC plan, which was completed and introduced in December 2013. The legislation would require the DEC to illustrate the “actual damage” the mute swan population causes to the environment or other species before exterminating the species.

“Wildlife experts, rehabilitators and environmentalists do not unanimously agree that exterminating the mute swan population is justified,” Mr. Thiele said in a statement. “In addition, there is debate amongst such experts about whether the planned eradication of the mute swan population is even minimally beneficial to the eco-system or to our environment. Therefore, it is incumbent on the Department of Environmental Conservation to illustrate the necessity of eradicating this non-native species by demonstrating the actual damage to the environment or other species caused by mute swans.”

Mute swans are an invasive species of swan named “mute” because they are less vocal than other swans. Native to Europe and Asia, they were brought to North America in the late 1870s due largely to their aesthetic appeal. Initially introduced in New York as ornaments on the estates of the lower Hudson Valley and Long Island, mute swans were present in the wild by the turn of the 20th century.

According to the DEC, the mute swan population had increased to about 2,000 statewide by 1993, peaked around 2,800 in 2002 and is now estimated at about 2,200. The swans, says the DEC, are still most heavily concentrated on Long Island and in the lower Hudson Valley, although they are also present in the Lake Ontario region.

“On the East End of Long Island, the mute swan is often visible in local ponds and waterways,” stated Mr. Thiele. “My office has not received one report in all my years in office that the mute swan is a nuisance or an environmental problem. This legislation will require all concerned to take a step back and take a hard look before any irrevocable action is taken by the DEC.”

A mute swan on the East End. Zachary Persico photo.

A mute swan on the East End. Zachary Persico photo.

The DEC says the non-native species causes a variety of environmental problems, “including aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation, displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality, and potential hazards to aviation.”

To express your comments to the DEC on its draft mute swan plan, email fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us with “Swan Plan” in the subject line or send letters to NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway in Albany, NY 12233-4754. The deadline for submitted comments is February 21.

To express your comments to Mr. Thiele, call his district office in Bridgehampton at 537.2583.

Hundreds of Protestors Gather at “No Cull” Rally in East Hampton to Protest Government Plan to Kill Deer

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Protest organizers concert promoter Ron Delsener and East Hampton Group for Wildlife founder Bill Crain at the "No Cull" rally in East Hampton Village Saturday, January 17. (Michael Heller photo).

Protest organizers, concert promoter Ron Delsener and East Hampton Group for Wildlife founder Bill Crain, adress the crowd at the “No Cull” rally in East Hampton Village Saturday, January 17. (Michael Heller photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

Some three hundred people gathered in East Hampton Saturday in opposition to the village’s plan to bring federal sharpshooters in to cull the deer herd. Hunters and wildlife activists joined together at the “No Cull” rally, organized by the East Hampton Group for Wildlife and supported by hunting organizations like Hunters for Deer and Long Island Archers.

Chanting “What do we want? Stop the cull? When do we want it? Now!” demonstrators, some who had driven hours to reach the village, marched from the Hook Mill in East Hampton to Herrick Park.

East Hampton Village and Southold Town have agreed to a Long Island Farm Bureau (LIFB) program that would bring USDA sharpshooters to the East End to cull the deer herd, which many local residents and farmers say is overpopulated and destructive. LIFB executive director Joe Gergela estimates 1,500 to 2,000 deer would be killed during the 40-day cull.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has not yet issued a permit for the cull (see sidebar).

Proponents of the plan say the deer population, with no natural predators, has outgrown the available food supply and natural environment on the East End. Deer, they say, create hazardous conditions on roads, carry tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease and negatively impact the local agriculture industry.

East Hampton Town agreed to the program in December under the last administration, but new town supervisor Larry Cantwell said last week he is unsure whether the town will still take part.

The program is funded by a $200,000 state grant LIFB received for deer management and would be one of the largest removals of deer ever undertaken by the government.

The hundreds who gathered Saturday are calling on the LIFB to stop the cull and for all municipalities to withdraw their support. East Hampton Village has committed $15,000 to the farm bureau and Southold Town has pledged $25,000. Those funds support sharpshooters coming into public lands, but the cull can continue on private land without official support from local governments.

In December, The Group for Wildlife, along with 13 individual plaintiffs and the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays, filed suit against East Hampton town, village and the town trustees.

“We’re going to sue each and every town or village that even thinks about entering into this plan,” Wendy Chamberlain, a Bridgehampton resident who helped organize the rally, told the crowd Saturday.

“It gets better,” she added, “We’re also going to sue the heinous USDA!”

Despite the uncommon collaboration of hunters and animal rights advocates, the rally was peaceful aside from one disruption, when concert promoter Ron Delsener shouted at East Hampton school board member Patricia Hope.

Hope was passing out flyers supporting immuno-contraception as a more peaceful way to cull the herd than the “wholesale slaughter of does and fawns” when Delsener, who has a house in East Hampton and is funding the anti-cull lawsuit, yelled, “This lady wants to kill the deer!”

“I don’t want to kill the deer,” Hope replied, moving away from Delsener.

Group for Wildlife founder and Montauk resident Bill Crain encouraged the crowd to write letters and call their government officials to “let them know we will not stand for this.”

“They don’t have a chance of re-election if they are going to pursue this barbaric, murderous slaughter,” Crain said.

Many protestors dressed in hunting gear and held signs with slogans like, “Cull the board not the herd,” “Slaughter, savagery, stupidity,” and “Deer epidemic NOT proven.”

One sign said, “Are the swans next?” referring to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) new proposal to kill or capture all mute swans by 2025. Another had a photo of fawns and the words, “Are you going to kill my mommy?”

“They don’t deserve to die,” Sag Harbor’s Anne Plucis shouted to passing drivers, “They’re not the reason for this.”

Plucis said mice and rats are to blame for the prevalence of tick-borne illnesses, not deer.

Mike Tessitore, a former Sag Harbor Village policeman who is a member of Hunters for Deer, called the proposed plan “a slap in the face to the community, as well as the hunters on Long Island and in New York State.”

“If hunters were given the same opportunity as USDA in killing deer they would be successful,” said Tessitore.

The LIFB has said all meat would go to Long Island Harvest to be processed and sent to food banks, but with a cost of $50 to $80 to process each corpse, many of the cull’s opponents are skeptical the meat will be properly used.

Tessitore called the plan “$250,000 to $500,000 to throw deer in dumpsters.”

“Hunters,” he added, “actually use the meat to provide for their family and friends – and we do it for free.”

Local residents remain divided on whether or not the federal sharpshooters should be welcomed. Usually allied, many farmers and hunters are on different sides. Some wildlife advocates favor culling the herd, saying deer overpopulation negatively affects the habitats of other animals and that being shot is more humane than starving to death.

Those wildlife activists opposed to the cull, however, were in clear view Saturday.

Calling the plan “cruel and inhumane,” ARF co-founder Sony Schotland said immunization worked to control the population in several other areas. East Hampton resident Brooke Spencer circulated a petition against the cull through the crowd.

“I’m here,” East Hampton resident Elizabeth Mensch said, “because I just think this whole situation is extremely unethical and inhumane. I believe they have every right to be here and we have no right to say if something dies or lives.”

K.K. Shapiro, Mensch’s longtime friend and former classmate in East Hampton, added, “If you really have a problem with wildlife, move to the city.”