The people of East Hampton Village have spoken, and they agree that there’s a problem with deer.
At a Village Board work session earlier this month, Village Administrator Becky Hansen revealed the results of a survey asking residents their thoughts about the deer population in the village.
Of 2,038 surveys mailed out in July, 742 were filled out and returned by the fall. In those surveys, 615 residents, or almost 83 percent of those who responded, found the village’s deer population to be “very concerning,” with 525 people, or 71 percent, saying that the village’s continuation of a sterilization program with White Buffalo Inc., which stalled in August 2016, was “very important.”
The survey results also reveal that 600 people, or 81 percent, want the village to consider other forms of deer management instead of sterilization, with 583 people, or 79 percent, saying they’d support culling the herd.
“The results indicated a high level of support from the village for both sterilization and culling,” Ms. Hansen said last Thursday, November 16.
Ms. Hansen said that the village is exploring other options. The village currently has no contract with White Buffalo to start a new phase of the sterilization program, which would require approval from the State Department of Environmental Conservation, as would a culling program. Ms. Molinaro said that there was no timeline for when the board would select an option.
Management of the deer population has been a hot topic both inside and outside the village. At the meeting, Barbara Borsack, a board member, mentioned looking into the Village of North Haven’s culling program, which has been running for a number of years is currently running through March 31, according to its village clerk, Ed Deyermond.
To help reduce the deer population, Suffolk County recently opened over 2,250 acres of county parkland for the 2017-18 hunting season in locations including Hubbard County Park in Hampton Bays, Edward V. Ecker Sr. County Park in Montauk and Buckskill County Park in Wainscott.
In July, the East Hampton Village Preservation Society hosted a community forum to discuss the negative effects of deer overpopulation. The society cited community concerns about deer damaging the habitats of other local wildlife and affecting the growth of trees in the village, along with carrying tick-borne illnesses. Kathleen Cunningham, executive director of the society, said on Monday that the survey’s results “mirror” the results of a similar survey that the society took in 2016.
She added that the Village Preservation Society had raised and donated $100,000 to the village to help offset the cost of a 2014 sterilization program for which the village hired White Buffalo. Sterilization by surgery was meant to be a “middle ground,” as Ms. Cunningham put it, between taking no action at all and culling, which Ms. Cunningham likened to “calling an exterminator.”
“It’s interesting to see that the village population wants this situation handled,” Ms. Cunningham said. “The trouble with this is finding a solution for all sides, but someone is going to be unhappy with the decision.”
Local wildlife advocates have criticized the village’s survey as being biased toward culling or sterilization as the only options to the deer population. One of them is Bill Crain, president of the East Hampton Group for Wildlife, which protested the culling of deer in the village in 2014 and also filed a lawsuit, which was ultimately dismissed, against the village for the 2015 sterilization program.
“We’ve been trying to tell everyone that the village survey was very biased and only reveals negative options for the deer,” Mr. Crain said on Monday. “Unfortunately, the village got the results that they wanted.”
Mr. Crain said that tranquilizing female deer and injecting them with an immunocontraceptive that would block fertilization is “less invasive” than sterilization by surgery. He also suggested creating sanctuaries, where there would be no hunting, for deer outside the village. For those concerned about the spread of tick-borne illnesses by deer, Mr. Crain suggested using the “four-poster” method involving setting up deer feeding units equipped with treated rollers to kill off the tiny pests while the deer lean down to eat. Mr. Crain generally emphasized the need for more information about methods of living in harmony with deer in the village.
“There should be cause for a new scientific study of deer instead of any hysterical talk,” he said.