Two local wildlife organizations and a group of residents have filed a lawsuit seeking to block a regional plan to kill hundreds, perhaps thousands, of whitetail deer using federal riflemen starting in February.
The lawsuit did not, however, stop the East Hampton Village Board on Friday afternoon from signing onto the so-called Deer Project, a proposal by the Long Island Farm Bureau to cull deer herds across the East End.
The petitioners in the lawsuit include 15 residents, as well as the East Hampton Group for Wildlife and the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons. They filed the suit on December 18 against East Hampton Village and East Hampton Town, as well as the East Hampton Town Trustees, asking for a temporary restraining order against acting on the town’s deer management plan and on any organized killing of the creatures. The town was served on Thursday, December 19, and the village on the following day.
The plan calls for hiring U.S. Department of Agriculture sharpshooters and working with each community to identify hot spots for deer. The sharpshooters would use high-powered rifles, silencers and night-vision equipment to kill female deer over several weeks in February and March in East Hampton, Sagaponack Village and on the North Fork.
East Hampton Village on Friday approved spending up to $15,000 for the project; the towns are set to pay $25,000.
Proponents of the culling say it will reduce tick-borne diseases, cut down on crop damage and limit car accidents that involve deer. They have argued that the methods employed by the federal experts are the most humane way to dispatch the deer.
In addition to the East Hampton lawsuit, residents of Bridgehampton and Sagaponack presented the Southampton Town Board last Thursday, December 19, with a petition signed by 9,800 people in opposition to culling. The same petition was submitted to the Sagaponack Village Board last week as well.
Several people spoke before the East Hampton Village Board on Friday, mostly in opposition to the herd culling plans.
Bill Crain, one of the plaintiffs in the suit and a part-time East Hampton Town resident and psychology professor at City College of the City University of New York, said the cull would create a “nightmare of extraordinary proportions.” He also observed that only humans were present at the meeting, and that there were no seats or delegations for the four-legged or winged creatures of creation.
One man in attendance had “NO CULL” taped to his shirt.
Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. listened to the slate of comments, but reminded the public that a hearing had already been held on the matter earlier this fall.
He said that the whole board is friends with Bambi, but that the cull would be just a first step in an ongoing effort to resolve a problem, which, he said, is that there are too many deer in the village.
John Di Leonardo, the president of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature, or LION, and chairman of the League of Humane Voters-Long Island, submitted a letter for the record urging East Hampton Village to pursue more effective, nonlethal means, such as fencing, plantings, sterilization and education.
East Hampton Town Deputy Supervisor Theresa Quigley this week said she did not know about the suit and that even if she did, she could not comment on litigation, although she did note that people have the right to sue to stop actions.