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Deer

Some Eaton’s Neck residents have set their sights on terminating deer through bow hunting. Stock photo

Residents of Eaton’s Neck are still divided on how to deal with what they say is an overpopulation of deer in their community, and it looks like the Huntington Town Board hasn’t come to a decision on the matter either.

The board held a public hearing last month to consider allowing longbow hunting during hunting season on private proprieties on Eaton’s Neck and in unincorporated areas of Asharoken to anyone who has a hunting license issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. It brought out those in support of the proposal and some against the idea. In interviews this week, board members said they have not currently made up their minds on how to proceed with the issue.

Residents expressed concerns about the deer population at the July 14 board meeting.

“Our major concern is safety — traveling our roads at night is hazardous,” Ken Kraska, a resident of Eaton’s Neck said at the meeting then.

After that meeting, the board hosted a public hearing about the longbow hunting proposal, where nearly 30 people took to the podium to speak about the issue. While some residents were very supportive of bow hunting to reduce the population, others felt it was an inhumane way to deal with the issue.

Some are still divided on this idea.

Doug Whitcomb, an Eaton’s Neck resident and member of the Eaton Harbors Corporation board, said in a phone interview this week that he supports longbow hunting. He spoke at the public hearing last month on the issue.

“We are overrun with deer,” Whitcomb said. “They no longer run from you. I was personally challenged by one yesterday, and not even my 150-pound Great Dane scared the deer.”

Whitcomb said that many of his neighbors now have Lyme disease, and he doesn’t want to wait until a member of his family contracts it before something is done.

“We want the same quality of life as every other resident, and we’re being denied that,” he said.

According to the DEC, which manages the state’s deer hunting, the Long Island deer population has been steadily increasing since the 1980s. The DEC considers hunting, or culling deer, is the most cost-effective and efficient way to stabilize or reduce deer populations, while also alleviating associated damages to private property and natural resources.

Christine Ballow, an Eaton’s Neck resident, said she supports more humane ways to handle this issue. She said she didn’t feel longbow hunting was 100 percent effective.

“I’m hoping this doesn’t go through,” Ballow said in a phone interview.

Wendy Chamberlin, president of the Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island, also shares the belief that bow hunting is a cruel and ineffective option.

“For sentient animals, that have thoughts and feelings, it is particularly cruel … it is a long, drawn-out, agonizing death,” she said in a previous interview.

Ballow supports hormonal sterilization of the male deer. “It’s a peaceful solution,” she said.

Joe DeRosa, an Eaton’s Neck resident, spoke at both board meetings, and is expecting a decision from the Town Board at the Sept. 16 meeting.

DeRosa is president of the Eaton Harbors Corporation, which conducted a survey of Eaton’s Neck residents. He said 85 percent of residents were found supporting some type of hunting to reduce deer numbers.

“The problem is getting worse by the day,” DeRosa said. “And we are running out of time. Hunting season starts soon. Our hope is that [the board] approves this idea.”

Suffolk County hunting season begins on Oct. 1 and ends on Jan. 31.

Town Board members this week either said they had no comment on the issue or that they had not come to a decision on the matter.

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said he is “still weighing the testimony from the public hearing and the input from the public that has come in and may still come in before the board meeting,” according to an email from town spokesperson A.J. Carter.

Deer rutting season means more of the animals running out on local roads. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Belle Terre residents are up in arms, or ready to take up arms, over a village government proposal to allow bow hunting as a means of reducing the community’s deer population.

The village board of trustees set a public hearing for Sept. 15 to consider a law amendment that would allow the hunting, a notion that has split the community, with some calling for more “humane” approaches to the issue.

The deer population, in the absence of predators, has increased such that “people are having multiple deer sleeping on their lawns at night and eating all their vegetation,” and making driving in the area more treacherous, Trustee Bob Sandak said in a phone interview this week. “We’ve had an outcry from the population to please do something.”

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which manages the state’s deer, the Long Island deer population has been steadily increasing since the 1980s. It calls hunting, or culling deer “still the most efficient and cost-effective way to stabilize or reduce deer populations and alleviate associated damages to private property and natural resources.”

But calling bow hunting “a very cruel way to kill,” resident Natalie Brett said she worried an injured deer would wander into her yard and die.

Brett said she has noticed the deer population increase and the animals eat her plants, but “I don’t have a problem; I just go with it.”

She said she wants to see a more “humane” approach to the deer, using sterilization to prevent breeding, tick control to prevent Lyme disease, or stop signs to slow down traffic in deer crossing areas.

But her main concern is whether allowing bow hunting will “open the door” to other types of hunting in a residential area.

“I didn’t move to a state hunting ground and put up a sign, ‘You shouldn’t hunt,’” Brett said in a phone interview. “I don’t want my neighbor, if he’s 150 feet from my house, having a hunter come in.”

Sandak said any Belle Terre bow hunting would be subject to the same state regulations as in any other community. Among those regulations are minimum distances from homes where hunting can take place, ruling out smaller properties. Sandak estimated a property would have to be three acres or more to legally support bow hunting.

The DEC said fertility control is not as effective as hunting in managing deer populations and does not “quickly reduce deer-human conflicts.” And Sandak said he would not necessarily count sterilization as a more humane method, as it puts deer under “unnatural stress” and could leave the animal open to infection.

It is also costly to pay for anesthetic and a marksman to hit the deer, and “doesn’t reduce the size of the herd because you’re not taking any of the herd away, as hunting would do,” the village trustee said.

Dori Scofield, founder of Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue and Adoption Center in Port Jefferson Station, confirmed that sterilization is a costly and tricky method that unnaturally stresses out the deer, but she also said she has at least six veterinarians who would donate time to sterilize deer, and the village is small enough to monitor such a program.

Scofield, a Stony Brook resident, also said in an email that having fewer deer would not reduce Lyme disease cases, as other animals like mice and raccoons also carry ticks. Furthermore, killing deer would not necessarily reduce that population, because it would leave more food for deer from neighboring areas to move in and motivate them to procreate.

“Ideally I would like them to leave the deer be,” Scofield said. “We need to protect the animals in our towns.”

Belle Terre is not the only area considering deer hunting as a means to control the population. The Town of Huntington is mulling a similar proposal for parts of Eaton’s Neck and Asharoken, and residents there are equally split.

Scofield said people who move to a wooded area should expect wildlife.

“I have deer in Stony Brook and, yes, they eat my shrubs and I sip my tea and watch them,” she said. “Then I feed them some horse feed and we all go about our day.”

Sandak said he is leaning toward allowing bow hunting in the village because “I don’t have strong feelings against it” and he wants to vote for what the majority of the community wants.

The Sept. 15 public hearing on the amendment to Belle Terre’s code chapter on hunting and firearms starts at 8 p.m. in the Belle Terre Community Center on Cliff Road.

“I would like everyone to come to the public meeting and express themselves,” Sandak said.

Residents vet plan for Eaton’s Neck deer

Some Three Village residents became concerned when they received an advertisement for a deer management program offering its services. File photo

Dozens of residents weighed in at a public hearing on Tuesday on a Huntington Town Board plan that would allow seasonal longbow hunting of deer on Eaton’s Neck.

The proposal would amend the town code to allow longbow hunting during hunting season on private properties on Eaton’s Neck and in unincorporated areas of Asharoken to anyone who has a hunting license issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Nearly 30 people took to the podium at town hall to voice their concerns on the plan.

Those who supported the proposal, which would only apply to private properties, said they wanted the measure in place to regulate what’s become an overpopulation of deer in the neighborhood. The great numbers of deer have given rise to public health, safety and quality of life issues, supporters said.

Opponents called the plan an “inhumane” solution and suggested the town explores other deer management routes and raised questions about whether the hunting method would even be effective in curbing the population.

Among the residents who spoke against longbow hunting included some who have been impacted by tick-borne illnesses, like Lyme disease, an infectious bacterial disease that if left untreated can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system; and babesiosis, a disease caused by microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells.

Dr. Gary Stone, Huntington Hospital’s chairman of pathology and director of the laboratory, said in an interview on Wednesday that the hospital has treated about 10 to 15 cases of babesiosis in total this year. Those cases are of individuals from the Huntington Town area, he said. The hospital announced in a statement “more are expected,” and said the disease is “prevalent in our area but sometimes goes unnoticed.”

“This has happened before but it doesn’t happen to do this degree this summer,” Stone said. “This summer is definitely worse than the last few summers.”

He said in research he’s carried out on cases at other area hospitals, it seems as though medical centers on the North Shore are experiencing greater numbers of cases of babesiosis.

“I’m thinking there’s a higher percent of ticks here on the North Shore actually have the disease than on the South Shore,” he said.

Doug Whitcomb told Town Board members that the population has exploded to the point where “everybody encounters deer on a daily basis.” He and others pleaded with board members to consider the elevated health risks associated with a large deer population and to allow longbow hunting.

“I am here to represent that the residents of Eaton’s Neck deserve the same opportunity to quality of life as all of the other residents of Huntington have, and deer are causing us unimaginable problems,” Whitcomb said.

Animal advocates, however, took aim at longbow hunting.

“Animals feel pain and experience a full range of emotions — happiness, contentment, fear and dread,” Jeannie Gedeon said. “They are intelligent. …  If you vote to allow deer hunting in the Town of Huntington we might as well go home and shoot our pet dogs and cats with an arrow and go watch them die.”

The uptick in the deer population has led to a rise in car accidents, residents said. They also claim the animals eat their plants.

Residents of the Eaton Harbors Corporation have been working on the issue. The group posted on its website a January meeting with DEC deer biologist Josh Stiller, who provided an overview of the deer population growth issue.

“The problem is going farther and farther west it seems like every year,” he told residents then. … “Deer can multiply really quickly under ideal situations and in a lot of these suburban areas you have an ideal situation for deer.”

In prior interviews, Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and Councilman Gene Cook (I) spoke about wanting to see a more humane approach to managing the deer population. In separate interviews after the public hearing, they said they hadn’t decided whether they’d support the measure or not.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) echoed similar sentiments. Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) told reporters that he felt something needed to be done and that he’d look into the issue further.

“It is getting out of hand. We have to do something. Are we happy about this alternative with bows and deer running and they’re shot? No. There’s no immediate quick fix,” the supervisor said.

Deer rutting season means more of the animals running out on local roads. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The Huntington Town Board is taking a shot at regulating what some say is an uptick in deer by hosting a public hearing on a plan to allow seasonal bow hunting on Eaton’s Neck.

Residents who are interested in weighing in on the plan can get a better understanding of what changes would be made to hunting laws at the hearing on Aug. 11 at 2 p.m.

The proposal would amend the town code to allow long bow hunting during hunting season on private properties to anyone who has a hunting license issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

A survey of the area’s residents shows support for the proposal, according to town spokesman A.J. Carter,

“Our major concern is safety, traveling our roads at night is hazardous and using our property has become impossible,” Ken Kraska, a resident of Eaton’s Neck said at the July 14 Town Board meeting.

Kraska said himself and many other residents own several acres of “virgin, wooded, undeveloped land,” and the deer population is starting to overrun it. He also described the deer as aggressive, especially during mating season.

The issue of Lyme disease also has residents worried.

“The number of deer has doubled and then tripled, people have had to hire companies to spray for ticks, and you have to do it constantly to stay on top of it,” Joe DeRosa, another Eaton’s Neck resident said at the meeting.

DeRosa has several grandchildren, and says he’s constantly on alert with them as well.

Mel Ettinger, trustee and police commissioner of Asharoken Village, said that an increased deer population has been a problem for years there, too.

“Every year there are more accidents involving deer and automobiles,” Ettinger said.

Animal activists don’t support this method of dealing with the issue and believe that there are more humane ways to reduce the number of deer.

“Bow hunting is one of the cruelest forms of hunting,” Kristin DeJournett, cruelty casework manager for PETA said.

DeJournett described alternative methods to keep deer away, including targeting food supply by cutting back on edible plants.

An increase in native plants, or plants that grow naturally in a particular region, without direct or indirect human intervention, will help reduce interest from deer, since native plants have grown over time and have a natural resistance to local deer, she said.

DeJournett said that scarecrows could work against deer, as well as placing soap or pepper spray on your property, because the smell deters the animals.

“Lethal methods don’t work to control animal populations in the long-term,” she said. “When animals are killed, more animals move in to replace them, and it creates a temporary increased food supply, which causes the remaining does to breed at an accelerated rate.”

Wendy Chamberlin, president of the Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island, also shares the belief that bow hunting is a cruel and ineffective option.

“For sentience animals, that have thoughts and feelings, it is particularly cruel…it is a long, drawn out, agonizing death,” she said.

Members of the Town Board offered mixed thoughts on the proposal in interviews this week.

“I do think it’s a complicated and sensitive issue,” Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) said. “Any time lives of wildlife are taken we have to be very clear on what we’re doing and why.”

Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) seemed a bit more decided against the proposal.

“I know that there is a problem with the deer population, but I believe there is a probably a more humane way to deal with it.”

Councilman Gene Cook (I) indicated that he would be voting against the measure.

“I don’t like it, I think it is a cruel way to handle this, and it’s dangerous. It is bad for the residents and bad for the deer.”