Tag Archive | "deer"

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.”




Residents Cry Foul Over Dead, Pregnant Sterilized Deer; Scientists Say It’s “Normal”

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Photo courtesy Facebook.

Photo courtesy Facebook.

By Mara Certic

Last week, a Facebook post recounting the graphic story of a sterilized doe who died after trying to give birth to two stillborn fawns was shared over 400 times by East End residents, many of whom feared the sterilization procedure caused the birth defect and eventual death.

Scientists from White Buffalo, the non-profit organization hired to conduct the ovarectomies this winter, said there is no medical reason why the sterilization would affect a doe in this way, and that, although a horrific sight to see, a breech birth of stillborn twins is a “normal” event in the wild.

“I’ve been working on deer for 25 years, working closely with them. I’ve seen them have mummified fetuses that kill them, I’ve seen mutated deer. These are normal outlier events that happen in nature,” explained Dr. Anthony DeNicola, president of White Buffalo. “It just so happens that when it’s in suburbia, people see it and it doesn’t seem like the wild.”

On Sunday, May 24, wildlife rescue workers were called to the aid of a distressed doe in the backyard of a house on Newtown Lane in East Hampton Village. The deer had large number 57s attached to her ears, marking her as one of the does sterilized in the village program last winter.

When Jane Gill and Dell Cullum, both volunteers at the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center, arrived at the scene, the pregnant doe was trying to give birth to a fawn that was clearly dead, its head hanging out of the birth canal and covered in flies.

“I’ll never have that visual out of my mind,” Ms. Gill said last week.  She, Mr. Cullum and his wife tried to calm the deer by gently stroking her and speaking softly while they got in touch with a veterinarian to ask how to proceed. Vets reached by phone could not or would not come to the scene, and eventually, Mr. Cullum took it upon himself to try to remove the stillborn fawn to try to relieve some of the doe’s pain.

He pulled out the two baby deer, both about two feet long and fully formed with spotted fur, and both, badly mutated, he said. The doe died about 15 minutes after the two fawns were removed.

“I threw them back into the weeds because of how disgustingly mutated they were. There were features in the deer that were not normal, on both of them,” Mr. Cullum said. “Both of them had an appearance in their mouths that was not normal or a part of decomposition, and there was a feature of the second deer that was a complete mutation,” he said, but would not go into further detail.

“I’ve seen deer abort and I’ve seen deer have babies. When they abort they’re usually small. In many cases, the aborted fetus could be just bigger than a chipmunk. These weren’t physically correct and they were stillborn,” Mr. Cullum said.

“I’ve spoken to several vets around the country, as I’m sure you can imagine, and I’ve gotten all sorts of different stories,” said Mr. Cullum, who has worked with animals for years, as a wildlife photographer and as a live-trapper. “I don’t have a degree in this and I don’t pretend to, I just feel that my instinct in having much experience with wildlife is that this just wasn’t one of those normal things.”

Vickie DeNicola, from White Buffalo, the company that performed the sterilizations, said that she and the vets cannot think of any situation where the ovarectomy performed on the deer could have resulted in these mutated, stillborn babies.

A requirement of a state Department of Environmental Conservation permit for the program states that there must be a licensed veterinarian on the team sterilizing the deer.

“When we do a surgery, we’re removing the ovaries, we’re not removing the uterus,” explained Dr. Jeffrey Newman, a veterinarian who works with White Buffalo. “We do this all the time for dogs and cats and have great results. When we do this with deer, a lot of them are already pregnant,” he explained.

If the fetus is very small, he explained, it will be resorbed or expelled from the deer and the pregnancy will be terminated. According to Dr. DeNicola, studies show that past the 150-day mark, fetuses can be viable, the placenta will begin to produce progesterone and the pregnancy will be completed to term.

Hearing about what happened, Dr. DeNicola said that it sounds as if the fawns died because they were in a breech position. “It’s like a breeched birth in a person, you have to have medical attention,” he said. “If you look at cattle and horses, if it’s head first, vet help is usually needed.” In his opinion, Dr. Newman said it was possible that the fawns had died from complications of the breeched birth a few days before and had begun to decompose inside the doe, causing sepsis in her.

When it comes to the deformities, without photographs it is difficult for the vets to establish what happened. None of the drugs used have ever had any correlation with congenital defects, Dr. Newman said. He said that what looked like deformities could very well have been post-mortem degeneration.

“I’m a scientist,” Dr. DeNicola explained. “If there was something interesting here I’d be fascinated,” he said.

“I feel very strongly that the drugs had nothing to do with this,” Dr. Newman said.

White Buffalo has not yet published the results of its sterilization programs in any peer-reviewed journals, and Ms. DeNicola said it was waiting to obtain more data. But so far, a similar-sized sterilization program in San Jose, California, has seen a mortality rate of less than 1 percent, and has resulted in a decrease to the deer population of about 40 percent. A project in upstate New York has seen equally low mortality rates, she said.

The deer’s tags allow them to be traced, so that White Buffalo can keep track of what has happened to them. Most of the deer that do die, Ms. DeNicola said, get hit by cars.

Wendy Chamberlin, an animal activist and wildlife rescue rehabilitator, said that although she herself would rather see immunocontraception, she is still a supporter of sterilization programs instead of an organized culling of the herd.

“I think the most important thing is to figure out why this happened, how this happened, and if it had anything to do with sterilization, how to prevent it from happening again,” she said.

“But everyone wants to find a nonlethal way to help control the deer population. Sterilization isn’t the best way, but it’s one way and it’s highly recommended by the humane society,” she added.

Stephanie Boyles Griffin, of the Humane Society of the United States, said that its  stance is that any nonlethal method is better than the alternative, better than culling.

“There’s not a zero mortality rate, but there’s no situation where you’re handling a wild animal where there’s a zero mortality rate,” she explained.

“The intent is not to kill animals, knowing that in certain situations, despite our best efforts, we may have mortality,” she said.

“It is our understanding that this was not a complication directly related to the ovarectomy,” said Village Administrator Becky Molinaro, who said that the whole incident has been very upsetting. “The village continues to be supportive of the program,” she added.

Mr. Cullum remains uneasy about the whole process. “The choice to interfere with these animals with chemicals, and doing field surgeries and separating them from herds, releasing them back into the elements,” he said, “It just doesn’t ring right with me. It doesn’t seem fair to the animal.”


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.

North Haven Hunting Injunction Lifted

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By Mara Certic

A temporary restraining order to prevent the issuance of new deer nuisance permits in North Haven has been lifted by Suffolk County Supreme Court Judge W. Gerard Asher in a ruling on Friday, September 12.

The Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island (WPCELI) filed suit against the Village of North Haven last spring for a preliminary injunction to prevent  the DEC from issuing nuisance permits on the East End, after hearing word of a proposed mass deer cull.

In March 2014, the Supreme Court issued a six-month temporary restraining order that prevented new permits from being issued. According to a press release issued by Wendy Chamberlin, president of WPCELI, the temporary restraining order “effectively, halted the Long Island Farm Bureau and United States Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services’ planned 2013-2014 cull of, potentially, thousands of deer, which concluded this past spring.”

The WPCELI argued the planned 2013-2014 cull of 3,000 to 5,000 deer “was a substantial increase from previous years and that a cull of this size has not been properly evaluated or studied by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation,” according the release.

According to court records, the wildlife coalition asserted “the DEC’s recent issuance of DDPs involves significant departures from their established and accepted practices of doing so and asserts that a new evaluation of the need and scale of any deer cull program must be done.” They also said, according to the records, “the DEC does not follow its own guidelines.” The DEC countered that it does indeed follow its own guidelines and that there was not a significant departure from past years, noting there are only 12 applications currently pending before the DEC, and that those are for mostly farmland.

“WPCELI is confident that the court will find that DEC has not justified this unprecedented cull and will direct DEC to comply with the law before issuing more permits for the LIFB program,” Ms. Chamberlin said in the release.

According to North Haven Village Mayor Jeff Sander, the lifting of the temporary restraining order will not have much of an immediate impact on North Haven.

“It won’t affect the state-wide hunting season that starts on October 1,” Mr. Sander said on Wednesday morning. “The normal hunting season starts October 1 and goes through the end of the year. The nuisance deer hunting starts on January 1, so it will allow us to continue as we have for many years.”

The North Haven Village Board presented an update of its deer management plan at its regular meeting earlier this month. It discussed the possibility of adding a deer sterilization program as well as plans to plans to deploy in the spring 10 four-poster feeding systems, which apply insecticide to a feeding deer’s neck and shoulders.

The board also discussed a proposed law that would require all hunters in North Haven to apply for special hunting permits from the village, as well as a permit from the DEC. “We just want to be able to control what hunters are in North Haven, what areas they’re hunting in. And they’ll need that permit whether they’re hunting in the normal season starting next month or during January to March for the nuisance deer hunting,” Mr. Sander said.

Mr. Sander said during the village board meeting the primary focus is to reduce the herd. North Haven, however, has no plans to bring in professional firm White Buffalo for a deer cull this year, he added.

East Hampton Management Plan

Andrew Gaites of the Deer Management Committee gave a report at the East Hampton Town Board’s Tuesday morning work session this week and offered options and recommendations to the board.

According to Mr. Gaites, changes in bow-hunting setback laws created an additional 300 acres of town land that can be opened for bow-hunting this year. The law, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier this year, reduced mandatory setbacks from residences from 500 feet to 150 feet. There is also an additional 174 acres of town land now available for gun hunting as well, he said.

Mr. Gaites said he believes the New York State Parks Department is working to open up more land in Napeague and Montauk for hunting.

The committee did not recommend planning for a professional deer cull this winter, “mostly due to a lawsuit against the DEC and the USDA,” Mr. Gaites said. The committee did suggest the town consider allowing local hunters onto private land during certain hours, “possibly at other times of year using nuisance permits,” as well as the regular hunting season, Mr. Gaites said.

He also suggested the possibility of opening up two landfill sites to hunting on Wednesdays, when they are closed. Mr. Gaites said if this was possible, the properties would only be open on a limited basis and only to a select number of lottery winners. It was also recommended that deer accidents be better documented and that the board consider extending the gun season to include weekends.

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.”

Oh Deer! East End Wildlife Groups Plan “No Cull” Rally for Saturday

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By Tessa Raebeck

Plans to unleash federal sharpshooters on the East End deer population have been met with bureaucratic setbacks and vocal opposition, but are moving forward nonetheless.

In coordination with the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Long Island Farm Bureau (LIFB) plans to hire USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) sharpshooters to kill deer with high-powered rifles to cull the local herds.

In addition to carrying tick-borne illnesses, causing car accidents and adversely affecting other animal habitats, deer destroy an estimated $3 to $5 million worth of crops annually on the East End, according to Joe Gergela, LIFB executive director.

Gergela said the cull, which will be largely funded by a $200,000 state grant, aims to kill 1,500 to 2,000 deer. All processed meat will go to Island Harvest to feed the hungry on Long Island.

“We felt whatever we did with the grant should be for community as well as farming benefit,” Gergela said Wednesday, adding a cull is crucial to having a successful agricultural industry.

LIFB has asked that villages and towns who want the sharpshooters sign onto the program by committing $15,000 or $25,000, respectively.

The DEC has yet to reveal whether it will require a single permit for the program or make each municipality signing onto the program file individually. Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. said Tuesday although many municipalities have expressed interest in joining the program, they don’t want the legal liability of having the permit in their name.

So far, East Hampton Village, Southold Town and the eastern part of Brookhaven Town have signed on.

North Haven Village opted out, but is pursuing its own organized cull.

Sagaponack Village’s participation is contingent on the participation of both East Hampton and Southampton towns.

Southampton Town has thus far stayed mute on the subject — which has been under public discussion since September. Calls to Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst were not returned as of press time.

The East Hampton Town Board, under the previous administration, adopted a deer management plan that included plans for a cull. On Tuesday, however, newly elected Supervisor Larry Cantwell said he was unsure if the town would, in fact, join the LIFB in this initiative.

“At the moment, it’s up in the air,” Cantwell said, adding he would like to see culling on a limited basis and there are advantages to participating, but the town’s decision will be based primarily on the opinions of its residents.

“To some extent,” said Cantwell, “this is happening fairly quickly in terms of building a community consensus moving forward.”

The East Hampton Group for the Wildlife, the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons and 13 individuals have filed suit against East Hampton Town, East Hampton Village and the East Hampton Town Trustees.

The lawsuit asks for a temporary restraining order against the town’s deer management plan and specifically, any proposal that calls for an organized cull.

“The lawsuit,” Cantwell said, “is certainly a factor in the decision-making process about this.”

Critics contend little information has been provided to show the cull is truly necessary.

“Killing other beings as a way of solving the problem is abhorrent, unethical and monstrous to me,” said East Hampton Group for the Wildlife President Bill Crain. “These are living beings with families and social lives and emotions, so to kill them just seems like a moral outrage.”

“It’s not about animal cruelty and all the nonsense that the Bambi lovers are spouting,” Gergela said. “If they would sit down and listen to people, they would realize there are no practical solutions other than to hunt or to cull.”

A petition on change.org to stop the “stealth plan to brutally slaughter 5,000 East End deer” had garnered over 10,600 signatures as of press time. In addition to local residents, activists from as far away as Belgium have signed the petition, which calls for the “unethical, ‘quick-fix,’ non-science-based plan” to “immediately cease and desist.”

A rally in protest of the cull will be held Saturday, starting at 1 p.m. at the Hook Mill in East Hampton.

Gergela dismissed the opposition as a “vocal minority” of non-locals with “no vested interest other than they enjoy animals and they enjoy their peaceful weekend on Long Island.”

“That’s very nice,” he added, “but for those of us that live here, whether you’re a farmer or a general citizen that’s had an accident, that has Lyme Disease or whatever, everybody says to me, ‘You’re doing a great thing.’”

Local hunters have also expressed their opposition to the cull, arguing if state and local governments lessened hunting restrictions, they themselves could thin the deer population.

Terry Crowley, a lifelong Sagaponack resident whose family has been hunting on the East End for generations, called the cull “a little ridiculous.”

“They should just change a few laws so more deer can be killed,” Crowley said Tuesday.

Thiele is working on legislation that would implement the state deer management plan, which has a number of recommendations to increase hunting opportunities, including expanding the January season to include weekends and allow bow and arrow hunting.

Cantwell voiced his support of such legislation.

“I certainly want to work with the local hunters who want to take deer,” the supervisor said Tuesday, “because I do think that removing some deer from the population on an ongoing basis is necessary to control the population.”

Suit Filed Over Deer Cull in East Hampton

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Two not-for-profit wildlife organizations and a group of individuals have banded together and filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent a regional plan to cull deer with federal sharpshooters beginning this winter.

The Montauk-based East Hampton Group for the Wildlife and the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons in Hampton Bays, along with 15 residents, filed suit in Supreme Court Thursday against East Hampton Town, East Hampton Village and the East Hampton Town Trustees. In the suit, they ask for a temporary restraining order against the town’s comprehensive deer management plan, and specifically any proposal within that plan that calls for the organized culling of the whitetail deer.

While the lawsuit was served on the town last Thursday and the village on Friday, that same day, the East Hampton Village Board moved forward by passing a resolution to join the Long Island Farm Bureau’s (LIFB) proposal to bring in federal sharpshooters to cull deer herds in municipalities across the East End.

The LIFB’s plan, which it is coordinating with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), entails bringing United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sharpshooters to the East End to cull the herd. The program will be funded by the LIFB through $200,000 in funding through the 2013 state budget.

The Farm Bureau has asked East End villages and towns to sign onto the program by committing $15,000 to $25,000, respectively, to have federal riflemen come to their municipalities. The cull will take place in a four or five week window beginning in February, timing Farm Bureau Executive Director Joe Gergela noted was designed to give local hunters a chance to cull the herd themselves during deer season, which runs through late January.

The goal, said Gergela in an interview earlier this month, is to cull 1,000 to 2,000 deer from across the East End. The meat from the culled deer will go to Island Harvest to feed the hungry on Long Island.

The USDA sharpshooters use suppressed rifles and depending on terrain, either trap deer with a drop net, work as a mobile team with a driver, spotter and shooter, or shoot from tree stands. The Farm Bureau will coordinate efforts with municipalities that sign onto the program to identify areas deer herds tend to populate the most.

East Hampton Village has agreed to pay $15,000 into the program and joins East Hampton and Southold town, who have both agreed to provide $25,000 in funding.  Southampton Town has yet to decide on whether or not it will join the regional cull, and Sagaponack officials have said that village would wait until both towns sign on before making its own commitment. The Village of North Haven is pursuing its own organized cull.

While supporters of the plan point to the incidences of tick borne illnesses on the East End, public safety concerns connected to deer and motor vehicle accidents, as well as the financial impact on farms and on private landscaping, critics contend there has been little information provided to show the cull is truly necessary. Local hunters have also opposed the cull, arguing if New York State, and the towns and villages, opened up hunting restrictions, they could thin the deer population themselves.

“There is not enough proof that there is the kind of population that would warrant this,” said Virginia Frati, the Executive Director and Founder of the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center. “How can we do this without proof of that?”

“We are not convinced there is an overpopulation of deer,” she continued. “Where is the proof that an overwhelming majority of residents are even for this? Even the hunters are not in favor of this.”

Incumbents Run Unopposed in North Haven

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By Claire Walla

This Tuesday, North Haven Village will see an uncontested election, with trustees George Butts and Diane Skilbred, as well as Mayor Laura Nolan all up for reelection.

Nolan, who will be running for her sixth term in office, includes in her list of achievements: financial stewardship (maintaining the same tax rate for the last five years); land preservation (preserving 26 acres of open space); village management (upgrading to a digital filing system); and traffic-calming measures supported by the roundabout where Ferry Road meets County Road 60.

Nolan added the most important issues facing the village in the coming years will include the effects of the two-percent tax cap, as well as “the continued pressures of development” and “preserving the beauty of our coastal waters.”

After moving to North Haven in the early ‘90s, Nolan first ran for village board in 1997.

“I originally got involved because of the deer issue,” Nolan said.

Back then, Nolan said the deer population in North Haven alone registered over 500. Together with her fellow village board members, Nolan said she helped put measures in place to reduce the deer population.

“We have safely reduced the deer herd,” she wrote in an email, “and continue to maintain a very small deer population.”

After having served on the North Haven Village Board since 2010, Trustee Diane Skilbred will be running for her second term in office.

Of the issues the village board has faced in the time she’s been in office, she said the most significant have been the law allowing residents to raise chickens and the cell phone tower first proposed in December of 2010.

“I was the only one who was opposed to it,” she said of the tower. “I didn’t think it was appropriate for North Haven.” (The cell tower proposal was ultimately shot down.)

Much of Skilbred’s decision making has revolved around the idea of maintaining the “rural character” of the village, which is why she said she strongly supported the chicken law, which was ultimately adopted by the board.

While relatively new to the village board, Skilbred was previously a member of the Architectural Review Board (ARB), which she served on for 16 years.

The main initiative Skilbred said she will try to spearhead during her next term in office is installing solar panels on the roof of Village Hall.

After four years as a North Haven Village Trustee, George Butts will be running for his third term in office.

Butts was born and raised in Sag Harbor and moved to North Haven in the ‘80s. A member of the Volunteer Fire Department and the Sag Harbor Dive Team, Butts had been Chairman of the North Haven Zoning Board of Appeals for 18 years before joining the village board.

Like Skilbred, of the most important issues the board has faced in the last four years Butts named the newly adopted chicken law and the debate over the proposed cell phone tower. But, in general, Butts said the village has remained relatively uncontroversial.

“It’s a good thing what we’re doing,” he said, explaining that the board works as a unit, for the most part, and largely avoids much bickering when it comes to deciding issues.

“I hope we’ll continue to take care of everything and make [the village] run as smoothly as it has been running,” he said.

“We’re an unusual board,” Mayor Nolan added.  “We work as a team.”

The North Haven Village election will take place this Tuesday, June 19 at Village Hall.

Fending Off the Deer

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Biz White Tail

By Claire Walla

They may be nice to look at, but for some they’re there to eat.

So the story goes here on the East End, where periwinkle hydrangeas, fuschia rhododendrons, clusters of violet flocks and bold stalks of multi-colored lilies are devoured each year by the bane of many a gardeners’ existence: deer. Until a few years ago, this contingent of disgruntled agrarians included Dafna Priel and Leslie Gelb. Only, instead of letting deer destruction get them down, they came up with a solution. They called it: Whitetail Solutions.

The East End company — managed by both Priel and Gelb — uses a home brew of organic materials to combat the onslaught of those pesky four-legged creatures with an unfortunate appetite for beautiful things.

“We may not be the only game in town, but we’re the best game in town,” Gelb said.

Whitetail Solutions offers seasonal packages for local homeowners. With a one-time summer payment, Gelb said homeowners can expect their yards to be taken care of for the entirety of the summer, with anti-deer spray applied to all the flowers and foliage at least every other week.

“We know what we’re doing and we know it works,” she added.

Part of the company’s appeal, Gelb said, is that its owners have experienced the trouble with deer first hand.

“We’ve seen just about every scenario out there,” she explained.

Gelb and Priel started the company in earnest about three years ago all because the completely unpredictable eating habits of these woodland creatures had become increasingly frustrating for the two avid gardeners.

“There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” she continued. “The hydrangeas at one home would be fine, but the hydrangeas at the house next door would be devoured.”

It’s a story with which hundreds of East Enders have been all too familiar, especially this year, which Gelb referred to as “a code red situation.”

She said she’s seen frustrated homeowners who have used various blends of relative deer-combatting potions made with everything from tea bags and Irish Spring soap to human hair and coyote urine. She’s also seen frustration from landscapers who have used chemical solutions that quickly wash off plants, emit intolerable smells or leave white residue on behind.

Early on, Gelb and Priel were once equally bogged down by efforts to deter the deer.

“We just tried everything, and things would work for a little while or they wouldn’t work at all,” she began. “Or else they were just so disgusting and vile!” She said one of the “stinky ones” is Bobbex—a concoction of fish oil and putrid smelling meat meal.

“Our products don’t smell awful at all, they don’t leave a white film [allowing flowers to keep their vibrant colors] and they’re rain resistant,” Gelb explained. After experimenting with a number of over-the-counter solutions and run-of-the-mill elixirs, Gelb said she and Priel finally found a mix that seemed to work without any of the pitfalls that plagued the solutions they had used in the past.

Gelb stated that she and Priel knew they had a winning mixture when friends of theirs who worked for the Long House Reserve began using it. Without going into details, Gelb said their secret ingredient is an odorless liquid with an extremely bitter taste.

White Tail Solutions currently serves about 40 clients and five landscaping firms, which use the company to deer-proof their building sites. She said their patrons have been impressed with their work. Not only do their organic sprays keep the deer away, but they’ve been known to help restore life to some plants left for dead in the wake of hungry whitetails, she said.

“Some plants aren’t that fortunate, [especially] if they’ve been picked at year to year,” she said. “But, if we catch it in time, they grow back, and we love that!”

Gelb is hesitant to offer exact pricing because “every yard is different,” but she said White Tail Solutions does offer free assessments. Plus, she added, whatever the grand total, “it’s a lot cheaper than putting up a fence.”

Reassembling A Deer

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Deer Skeleton - web edit

By Annette Hinkle

Wanted: Someone with lots of free time who loves assembling bones, has done it before and is not worried about putting the drill in the wrong place. Also required, patience and good humor. Wine and refreshments provided.

The bones. They’re in plastic Ziploc bags spread out across the dining room table in Dai Dayton’s Bridgehampton farmhouse. They once belonged to a white tailed deer — and there are a lot of them — each bag labeled in black Sharpie with a best guess estimate of what part of the animal they are from.

Dayton is vice president of Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt and the deer skeleton is from Vineyard Field, the grassland area behind the South Fork Natural History Society that the Friends have been working to restore for many years. The skeleton was found there a few seasons back, lying undisturbed under a large birch tree.

“It had just laid down and died,” recalls Dayton who’s not sure what killed the deer. The scapula is shattered, so she speculates the animal could have been hit by a car or even with an arrow, though none was found nearby. She doesn’t know the age of the deer, or if it was a male or female.

What is noteworthy, however, is the fact that the bones were picked clean and the skeleton was still largely intact.

“Usually the chipmunks eat the bones,” she says.

Because the skeleton was in such good shape, Dayton got the idea to reassemble it as a museum display for Southampton Town’s Long Pond Greenbelt Nature Center up the road.

“It was so cool, and I thought, wouldn’t it be a great project for a school?”

So Dayton gathered the bones and took them to the Hayground School where a teacher thought it would be a great project for the students.

“It stayed there for a year, not touched,” says Dayton.

Then she took the skeleton to Sag Harbor Elementary School where another teacher thought it would be a great project for the students.

“And it sat there for another year without being touched,” adds Dayton.

Finally, Dayton decided to do it herself and rallied other members of FLPG to join the effort. They found a book online that detailed how to put moose bones together, and Dayton pulled out her old anatomy books from animal husbandry courses she had taken.

Recently Dayton hosted a small work party — sort of akin to a quilting bee. Steve Gauger was the brave soul who dared to drill the first holes in the bones for wiring. At this point in the process, the group has managed to thread the vertebrae on a stainless rod and the two forelegs are strung together.

“We should be doing it once a week, but after that last episode I haven’t got the guts,” says Dayton. “No one called me to say ‘I had so much fun, let’s do it again.”

But the bags of bones are still there, just waiting for the right person to put them back together again.

“There are all these tiny little bones,” says Dayton. “The bags that are not put together are bigger than the parts we have assembled. One of the tibias is missing, so I have some spare parts in the back of my truck because a friend found a carcass.”

“We know the order they go in,” she adds. “Its the gluing and wiring and getting a stand to hold them that’s the issue. Just those forelegs took hours.”

“So it’s going to be like another 10 years.”

But Dayton is optimistic someone out there has the time and energy and is just waiting for a project like this. Maybe it’s someone reading this right now.

“We always supply the wine and the refreshments,” says Dayton enticingly before adding, “We had hoped to finish it in February. But we do have to say — we’ve done more than those two schools did in two years … or maybe even three.”