Tag Archive | "wildlife"

For Anti-Poaching Efforts, a Benefit for Elephants and Rhinos in Southampton

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Image by artist Lucy Cookson, courtesy Artists for Elephants.

Image by artist Lucy Cookson, courtesy Artists for Elephants.

By Tessa Raebeck

An art show to benefit the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), “Artists for Elephants and Rhinos” opens Saturday, June 14 at the Dora Frost Studio in Southampton.

“Wildlife crime is sweeping the planet,” organizers Dora Frost and Carolyn Chichester wrote in an email. “The illegal trafficking of wildlife is now one of the world’s largest criminal industries, with repeated links to terrorism networks. It is an industry now worth close to $20 billion a year, ranking it fourth behind drugs, weapons, and human trafficking as a global criminal activity.”

Blair Seagram Archival Print 13 inches x 19 inches  "School of Fish, Mangroves, Bonaire" Bonaire, Dutch Islands, 2014

Blair Seagram
Archival Print
13 inches x 19 inches
“School of Fish, Mangroves, Bonaire”
Bonaire, Dutch Islands, 2014

“High Target Species such as elephant and rhino are being hunted to extinction. These animals are the most difficult to protect, as poachers go to the most extreme lengths to kill them. If we can safeguard these animals, then entire ecosystems are protected,” they added.

The International Anti-Poaching Foundation trains, equips, manages and supports anti-poaching rangers to defend these targeted species. Ms. Chichester spent time observing the anti-poaching effort this past winter with IAPF rangers and Founder and CEO Damien Mander in Zimbabwe.

You can watch two 60 Minutes segments on IAPF and Damien Mander here and here.

The participating artists include: Dora Frost, Blair Seagram, Dalton Portella, Kimberly Goff, Judith Witlin, Sander Witlin, Lucy Cookson, Dinah Maxwell Smith, Alice Ryan, Allan Ryan, John Rist and Trevor Boteler.

The benefit is invitation only at the Dora Frost Studio, 15 Windmill Lane in Southampton on Saturday, June 14, from 5 to 8 p.m. The show will run at the gallery through Tuesday, June 17.

ARF Celebrates 40 Years of Protecting Man’s Best Friend

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ARF Trainer Matthew Posnick gets a kiss from Pretty Girl, a pit bull mix rescued from a dog fighting ring. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

ARF Trainer Matthew Posnick gets a kiss from Pretty Girl, a pit bull mix rescued from a dog-fighting ring. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

Forty years ago, Sag Harbor Village was overrun with strays, cat colonies had overtaken the East Hampton Town dump and feral dogs roamed the Northwest Woods in wild packs.

The commonplace conversion of house pets to wild animals seems unbelievable on the East End today—and that change is in large part thanks to the efforts of ARF, the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary this Saturday.

People have been encouraged to bring their dogs on leashes and their cats in carriers to the celebration, which includes dog agility courses and contests, free pet microchipping and rabies vaccines, an “Ask the Vet” booth with Dr. Sarah Alward, music, fresh food for both humans and pets, and proclamations from elected officials and the Humane Society.

“We’re celebrating 280 years in dog years,” said Executive Director Sara Davison, noting that guests can also visit the shelter and view pets for adoption.

“A lot has changed since ARF was founded and we’re very, very proud of the role we’ve played in helping to make the East End a no-kill community—and by that I mean that no animal now in most of the East End towns is euthanized for lack of space,” she said.

“Through ARF’s work of advocating for spay and neuter, the numbers of unwanted litters of kittens and puppies are way, way down and we’re able to take all the animals that are healthy or can be rehabilitated and we get them homes,” Ms. Davison added.

ARF Executive Director Sara Davison poses with cats at the Wainscott adoption center. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

ARF Executive Director Sara Davison poses with cats at the Wainscott adoption center. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

When ARF was founded in 1974, “People were abandoning animals left and right…. There were huge tracts of woodlands where there were feral dogs, a lot of suffering, a lot of animals abandoned—and that’s all changed,” she said.

In 1973, the late Cleveland Amory, an American author who devoted his life to promoting animal rights, brought three local women together for a meeting at what was then the Paradise Restaurant in Sag Harbor.

Mr. Amory contacted the women—Barbara Posener, Sony Schotland and Dorothy Wahl—because of their respective contributions to animal welfare on the East End.

The late Ms. Posener had made flyers calling on summer residents to leave their house, not their dog, when they left the area in the fall. Ms. Wahl had reached out to Mr. Amory to notify him of someone who was illegally selling leopards and other wildlife. Mr. Amory approached Ms. Schotland, the owner of a shop on Main Street at the time, because she had raised money to buy a fence for the Hampton Animal Shelter, a shelter on Brick Kiln Road with a bad reputation.

“I constantly tried to help them, but it was to no avail,” she recounted.

After Ms. Schotland raised funds for a fence, the shelter owner took the money but applied it elsewhere, she said, rather than using it to enclose the cats and dogs in her care. Claiming to take in strays, the shelter actually perpetuated the problem, said Ms. Schotland, as its animals would wander from Brick Kiln Road into Sag Harbor.

“The warden in Southampton told me, ‘I have never been to any place where I pick up so many strays, I pick up an average of 30 strays a month out of just Sag Harbor,” Ms. Schotland said.

Mr. Amory, “the god of the animal world in those days,” according to Ms. Schotland, brought the women together, approaching the shelter to offer their help.

When the group’s offer was rejected, ARF was born.

“If she had not rejected us, ARF would never have been,” Ms. Schotland said.

The trio founded the new shelter “with little more than a passion for animal welfare, a backyard and indomitable determination,” according to ARF board president Lisa McCarthy.

“We had no clue what to do and it felt like having an elephant by the tail, but then, little by little, it worked,” Ms. Schotland said.

In the beginning, the founders boarded animals in their homes, in the back of Ms. Schotland’s shop, and at local animal hospitals, vets and friends’ places.

It is it’s required that found animals first be taken to a designated shelter, Southampton Animal Shelter in Southampton or the East Hampton Veterinary Group in East Hampton, to be held for a period of time, so there is a standard place for an owner to look for their pet.

In the early 1980s, ARF, still a fledgling organization, brought a four-month old black lab, “adorable” according to Ms. Schotland, to Southampton Town as mandated.

“That was terrible,” she recalled. “By the next weekend, when the people came back to look for it, it had been destroyed, it had been euthanized.”

Following the incident, Ms. Schotland, Helena Curtis and ARF successfully lobbied the town to increase the mandatory holding time for stray dogs from five to 10 days.

As ARF’s reputation grew through such efforts, bigger names signed on.

ARF Trainer Matthew Posnick plays with Pretty Girl. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

ARF Trainer Matthew Posnick plays with Pretty Girl. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

“Little by little, we formed a board and we got more organized,” Ms. Schotland said.

With help from philanthropists Edward and Susan Yawney, ARF celebrated its 10th anniversary with the purchase of 22 acres on Daniels Hole Road in Wainscott.

Today, ARF has 27 professional employees, hundreds of volunteers and an annual budget of $2.5 million—and plenty of stories supporting its initial mission to protect homeless and abandoned cats and dogs.

“They all have a story,” said Jamie Berger, director of marketing and communications. “Some we know, some we don’t.”

A year ago, a pit bull mix was found lying close to death on the floor of a dog-fighting ring in North Hempstead.

“She’s pretty well chewed up from what they did to her,” said Matthew Posnick, ARF’s trainer who is in the process of rehabilitating the dog, now affectionately called Pretty Girl.

ARF Trainer Matthew Posnick shows the scars on Pretty Girl's face from her days in a North Hempstead dog-fighting ring. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

ARF Trainer Matthew Posnick shows the scars on Pretty Girl’s face from her days in a North Hempstead dog-fighting ring. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Within about 10 weeks, Pretty Girl was out of a muzzle and socializing with other dogs. She was on the pier at HarborFest, playing with dogs and kids and although she isn’t up for adoption quite yet, the shelter is hopeful she will be ready for a home soon.

“Of all the things I’ve done here in four years, I’m most proud of that,” Mr. Posnick said, as Pretty Girl licked his face. “She’s a really happy dog.”

Nancy Butts, who has worked at ARF for 21 years—topped only by Debbie Downes’s 28 years—was never allowed to have an animal growing up.

“My father used to say to me, when you get married you can have all the dogs you want,” said Ms. Butts, who now has four. “I got married on a Saturday and got an animal on a Monday.”

Snuggled below her desk was Patrick, a Pomeranian who looks like a puppy but is actually 7. Rescued from a puppy mill in Ohio, Patrick is patiently awaiting a home.

With an extremely high release rate—the rate of how many animals come into the shelter versus how many leave alive—ARF has adopted out 20,000 animals to date.

Longtime ARF employee Nancy Butts with Patrick, a seven-year-old Pomeranian rescued from a puppy mill. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Longtime ARF employee Nancy Butts with Patrick, a seven-year-old Pomeranian rescued from a puppy mill. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Ms. McCarthy’s personal goal is to adopt out 2,000 animals yearly by 2017.

“We’re very proud of the community,” Ms. Davison said. “We’re thankful for the support that we’ve gotten through the years from the community, and it’s enabled us to create one of the leading shelters in our country.”

“Not every shelter can afford to do the kinds of surgeries and rehabilitative care that we provide, but once we admit an animal into our doors, we really make a pledge to them that we’re going to do everything we can to get them healthy and get them adopted,” she added.

ARF’s 40th Anniversary Celebration is Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the ARF Adoption Center, 90 Daniels Hole Road in Wainscott. For more information or to RSVP, email tdix@arfhamptons.org or call 537-0400.

Fish Eye View Highlights Long Island’s Life Underwater

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A photo of a seahorse by Chris Paparo.

A photo of a seahorse by Chris Paparo.

By Stephen J. Kotz

From the surface, the teeming ecosystem of an East End bay reveals itself in glimpses: a bluefish breaking the surface; a school of silversides darting through the shallows; or a spider crab moving slowly along the edge of the eelgrass.

But for Chris Paparo, who has been taking underwater photographs for more than 25 years and is better known as the Fish Guy, the view is decidedly more detailed.

This Saturday, Mr. Paparo will present a free slide show and lecture, featuring his underwater photography, “An Underwater Journey of Long Island Through the Eyes of a Fishing Biologist,” at the office of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

CCOM executive director Jeremy Samuelson said he first learned about Mr. Paparo from his Facebook page, Fish Guy Photos, and was eventually intrigued enough to invite him to speak as part of CCOM’s environmental education outreach efforts.

“We all suffer a bit from this National Geographic thing in that we think the only beautiful things worth saving are halfway round the world,” said Mr. Samuelson, “but his photographs show you find them right here in our backyard.”

By day, Mr. Paparo, who received a degree in marine biology from Southampton College, manages the marine sciences center at the Stony Brook Southampton campus. “It’s exciting to have gone to school here as an undergrad and be back here for the next phase of the college’s life,” he said. Besides overseeing the facility’s operations, Mr. Paparo leads tours and field trips for visitors to the marine science center from local schools, museums and other community groups.

Before joining the university’s staff, he worked for four years at the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation and another 13 years at the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center in Riverhead as its educational coordinator and one of its rescue techs.

“The reason I went into marine science is my dad took me fishing when I was six, and I’ve been hooked ever since,” he said.

Besides giving lectures on his underwater photography, Mr. Paparo finds time to write a naturalist column for On the Water magazine and contribute to Fisherman magazine.

Mr. Paparo, who said he was certified as a scuba diver in 1993, first took up underwater photography as hobby. In recent years, “it’s snowballed a bit” with the advent of first the internet and later Facebook. Today, he said, every chance he gets he grabs his scuba gear and his Canon underwater camera rig, to explore beneath the surface of local bays.

Those who attend his lecture will see photographs of fluke, striped bass, porgies, puffers, winter flounder, sea bass and many other fish species. “Now you are going to see it from their point of view,” he said.

“I start with all the important game catch and then show the by catch, the crabs, snails, clams and end with the exotics, the tropical fish that come up in the summer time,” he continued.

Over the years, Mr. Paparo has photographed everything from tiny seahorses, which frequent the bays—“you have to know where to look for them,” he said—to sharks out in the ocean, although the latter he photographs from the safety of a boat.

“I haven’t seen any sharks diving, but I haven’t ventured out in the ocean to do any ocean diving,” he said. But he goes out with a friend and they tag and release sharks. “One of the makos we tagged off Shinnecock in 2012 was found 2,200 miles across the Atlantic,” he said. “It’s neat when you get a recapture like that.”

But Mr. Paparo said he has seen his share of sharks close to shore. “They are very abundant around here,” he said. “I’ve seen makos in the inlet. It’s just a matter of being out there and if you are out there the amount of time I am your chances of seeing them go up.”

Last year, Mr. Paparo said he was thrilled to see a string ray he estimated at 3-feet in diameter swimming around Ponquogue Bridge in Hamptons Bays. Although he was unable to photograph the fish, he caught it on video.

“I still get excited when I find an octopus,” said Mr. Paparo, who added that he has never seen one while diving, because they are very elusive creatures. “We collected two last fall, little guys,” he said. One was in a net, another came up with the anchor. “The first one was about the size of a gum ball, and the other one was even smaller, about the size of my pinky nail. If you didn’t know what you were looking for you would have missed them.”

Mr. Paparo said many amateur photographers fail to recognize how much work goes into capturing images of wildlife. “If you only go once, you won’t necessarily get the chance,” he said. “You never know what you are going to come across. And just because you saw it doesn’t mean you are going to get the picture.”

Mr. Paparo’s talk takes place at CCOM’s office at 6 S. Elmwood Avenue in Montauk. Admission is free and reservations are not required. For more information, call CCOM at (631) 238-5720.

 

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.”

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

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deer

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.”

Barking and Basking, The Seals Return to Montauk for the Winter

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A harbor seal sunning on the jetty at Georgica Beach in East Hampton. (Photo by Tessa Raebeck).

A harbor seal sunning on the jetty at Georgica Beach in East Hampton. (Photo by Tessa Raebeck).

By Tessa Raebeck

While most visitors to Montauk’s beaches come only in the summer months, at least one group prefers to spend the off-season basking in the sun. Harbor seals, once hunted as bounty and nearly depleted in the Northeast, are now abundant on the East End each winter.

Most of the seals in local waters are harbor seals, but grey, hooded, ringed and harp seals have also been spotted. The East Hampton Trails Preservation Society hopes to see at least one type of seal this Saturday, at a guided two and a half mile hike that weaves through a wooded trail along the bluffs in Montauk and ends, ideally, with a display of seals sunning themselves by the shore.

Several Northeast states enacted seal bounty programs in the late 1800s, and substantial catching and hunting contributed to a severe depletion of the seal population in local waters. A bounty program in Massachusetts existed until 1962.

Ten years later in 1972, the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act largely prohibited the “take” of marine mammals in U.S. waters or by U.S. citizens anywhere.

The seal population began to recover following its passage, according to Gordon Waring, who leads the seal program at NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

The number of seals on the Long Island shore has continued to rise.

Dr. Arthur Kopelman, field biologist and president of the Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island (CRESLI), has tracked changes in seal species, abundance and distribution in the Long Island Sound since 1995.

“What I’ve seen is a dramatic increase in population of harbor seals,” Kopelman said last week.

Harbor seals, Dr. Kopelman said, come down to New York from areas further North and usually stay from September to May, with the population generally peaking in late March in Westhampton Beach, his current area of research.

They have a cute, dog-like appearance and when flared, their nostrils resemble a cartoon heart. About six feet long, harbor seals are various shades of blue-gray, white or brown and covered in speckled spots.

If you’ve seen a seal on the East End, chances are it was a harbor seal.

They represent 95 percent of local seals. Dr. Kopelman counted 55 seals in Westhampton just last week, the vast majority of which were harbor seals.

Montauk has more grey seals than Westhampton, the population ecologist said, although the majority are still harbor seals. He has seen the rocks in Montauk filled with hundreds of barking seals in the past.

If harbor seals look like dogs, grey seals look like horses. Grey seals, larger and more aggressive with long faces and large snouts, account for four percent of the local seal population.

Adult males can weigh as much as 700 pounds; double the size of adult male harbor seals.

Dr. Kopelman said according to anecdotal evidence, the grey seal population in local waters is increasing. Typically classified as seasonal visitors like harbor seals, it appears grey seals – like many before them – have become attached to the area and are staying on the East End year round.

“In fact,” Dr. Kopelman said, “there are some folks who seem to indicate that there’s a year round presence of grey seals out here. Although, again, that’s somewhat anecdotal – but probably correct.”

The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation has rescued and rehabilitated many newborn seals recently, but it is not officially confirmed the pups were born in the area.

According to Dr. Kopelman, female harbor seals are often pregnant while here but typically head back North before giving birth to their pups, which can swim minutes after being born. It is “likely,” however, that grey seals are giving birth locally.

The remaining one percent of local seals – harp, hooded and ringed seals – come from as far north as the Arctic.

“They are less frequently encountered,” said Dr. Kopelman, “but they are encountered.”

The Seal Haul Out Hike will take place on Saturday, December 28 at 10 a.m. at Camp Hero Road in Montauk. For more information, contact Eva Moore at the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society at (631) 238-5134 or sharstat@yahoo.com.