By Mara Certic
Environmentalists, hunters and Southampton Town officials unveiled a deer protection and management plan at a town board work session last week.
The town Department of Conservation and Environment and Department of Land Management worked with Longview Wildlife Partnership to draft the 28-page plan that was presented to the board on Thursday, November 6.
Longview Wildlife Partnership is a citizens group of hunters and deer preservation advocates who formed the organization last year in the wake of plans to have Federal Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services sharpshooters cull the deer herd on eastern Long Island.
“We’re trying to strike a balance between protection and management,” said Amy Pfeiffer, a planner with Southampton Town.
As a first step, the plan recommends the formation of a deer management advisory committee, which would include local elected officials, planners, hunters, farmers, environmentalists, preservationists and experts on tick-borne diseases.
The multi-pronged management plan recommends different ways of reducing deer herds, including hunting, sterilization and immuno-contraception plans, as well as suggestions for reducing the number of deer motor vehicle accidents and how to better educate the public about the animals.
One of the issues of deer management is the unreliability of deer census methodology. The shifting, moving nature of deer populations and large numbers of unrecorded deer deaths mean current methods still require further refinement, according to the study.
Southampton Town will work with local hunters through the Longview Wildlife Partnership to establish deer management units and possible additional hunting opportunities on town-owned land. The plan aims to provide three ways to “legitimize the role that local hunters can play, especially where nuisance deer pose an issue,” it says.
The first is to increase the number of hunting opportunities and to manage hunter density, as long as safety measures and firearm and archery setbacks are followed.
The second would control the number of deer hunted each year by determining or changing hunting seasons, bag limits and also by designating the sex and age of deer taken. Bucks are often considered the more highly prized hunting trophy, but studies have shown restricting hunting to bucks only can in fact increase deer populations. Hunting does, on the other hand, could help to reduce the size of the herd.
Third, the plan suggests the issuance of deer management permits, which allow for larger deer harvest during regular hunting seasons.
A group called Hunters for Deer has purchased a large refrigeration unit for deer carcasses, in order to ensure the meat goes to good use. According to Ms. Pfeiffer, if hunters are called to someone’s property because of a deer nuisance issue, they can now keep the meat in their new refrigerator to safely store it until it is donated to one of several charitable organizations.
The town is also looking into sterilization and immuno-contraception programs in another effort to maintain deer populations. Both methods can be expensive, and immuno-contraception in deer is still evolving as a deer management tool and can only be carried out as part of a research program
“Immuno-contraception may be the only socially acceptable option in densely residentially developed areas and, therefore, may have some effectiveness as at least a short term solution in Southampton Town,” the plan reads.
The town also has looked into different geographical locations for 4-poster stations, which rub insecticide onto deer in an effort to mitigate tick-borne diseases in Southampton.
One of the more visible changes that could come to Southampton Town would be the installation of new, flashing deer crossing signs.
“This new sign would be lit and would be placed in an area that would be related to where we’re seeing deer motor vehicle accidents,” Ms. Pfeiffer said. Using police information about accidents and by studying deer patterns, the town has established 12 road areas where there are the highest numbers of deer-vehicle collisions.
Ms. Pfeiffer added that down the line, these signs could also have motion detectors, which would make the signs light up when deer are sensed nearby.
“It’s a really neat thing,” Ms. Pfeiffer added.