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Dec 23, 2014 10:26 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board Hears Concerns About Proposed Deer Management Plan

Dec 23, 2014 11:25 AM

The Southampton Town Board heard feedback last week from both residents and hunters on the municipality’s deer management plan that proposes to utilize a mix of approaches—including the introduction of immunocontraceptives and coordinated culls—to help control their population.

“Hunting is a part of what needs to happen in these municipalities,” Vince Pandolfo, a bow hunter with Hunters for Deer, a group that has been working with landowners in Remsenburg this season to manage the population in the small hamlet, said at the public hearing on December 18. “It has always been the best way to manage the population.”

The plan, which was first presented to the board on November 6, does not recommend only hunting to reduce deer herds. The first step, which was reiterated by Marty Shea, the town’s chief environmental planner, who worked on the plan with representatives of pro- and anti-hunting groups, is to create a deer management advisory committee.

“We’re very optimistic that the committee would provide a great forum for discussing all the issues,” Mr. Shea said, explaining that the group would include a mix of volunteers from both sides of the debate—such as hunters, farmers and wildlife preservation advocates.

If approved, the committee would also work with residents concerned with the deer, and share lethal and nonlethal options. The town is considering the idea of using immunocontraceptives in order to control the population as well.

“There’s no silver bullet,” Michael Tessitore, an avid hunter who worked on the plan and serves as the president of Hunters for Deer. “We have to use a multi-pronged program.”

Recommendations for protecting motorists and private property, researching ecological impacts of deer populations and educating residents about deer-related issues are also included in the report, which was a collaborative effort between representatives of the town’s Environmental Division, Hunters for Deer and the Longview Wildlife Partnership—the latter being a citizens group of deer preservation advocates and hunters that formed in the wake of opposition to last year’s U.S. Department of Agriculture’s deer cull on the East End.

“We’re starting to really wrap our heads around this,” Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said, “and tally it against the impacts to determine how best to manage those impacts in different areas.”

One concern raised by the supervisor had to do with the ability to accurately quantify the population in Southampton Town.

“We will find these answers, slowly but surely,” Wendy Chamberlain, a founder of the Longview Wildlife Partnership and president of the Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island. “It is something that’s doable, but it has to be scientific.”

Mr. Shea, on the other hand, said hard numbers should not be the focal point when dealing with deer.

“As soon as you complete it, the count is outdated,” he said. “What this is really about is looking at the impacts that deer are having and deciding how to handle those impacts.”

In order to combat this, Ms. Chamberlain suggested immunocontraceptives, which can be administered through feeders or darts.

“We’re trying to make this a proactive plan rather than chasing deer numbers,” she said, explaining that contraceptives could be a better way to control populations and delaying the need for possible culls. “We can start to be proactive and say we need to bring in a contraceptive plan in this little hamlet right away to prevent it.”

A handful of residents from Remsenburg attended last week’s meeting and pleaded with the Town Board to consider options other than bow hunting, and also heavily criticized the program that was introduced to Remsenburg at the beginning of hunting season this fall.

“It just seems that there’s no sense in doing this,” said Christine Shayan, a Remsenburg resident. “They are like our pets. They are not vermin. Please don’t do this.”

In Remsenburg, Hunters for Deer has been working with homeowners to coordinate hunts. So far, about 70 deer have been taken. When they reached that point, Mr. Tessitore said, the group froze the program because hunters had reached their target goal. He also estimated that there were approximately 300 deer in the hamlet prior to the cull.

Cay Chandler, a Remsenburg resident who staunchly opposes bow hunting in the 3.7-square-mile hamlet, had many questions about the safety of bow hunting, especially near the Remsenburg-Speonk Elementary School on Mill Road in Remsenburg.

“Do they post signs where they’re hunting so I can say to my kids, ‘Don’t go around that house because there’s hunters?’” Ms. Chandler asked. “And what about additional requirements for schools, since our elementary school is in a residential area.”

Ms. Throne-Holst said she would look into both of her inquiries.

This season marks the first time that those living in Remsenburg have had the option to sign a waiver permitting hunters on or near their properties to hunt for deer using high-powered bows. In order to participate, property owners had to sign a waiver indicating their interest in enrolling in the program.

Another Remsenburg resident who spoke last week said he approved of the overall plan, but questioned the effectiveness of a townwide program since the setback regulations were reduced to 150 feet and property owners have a final say in whether or not their land is hunted.

“The town should implement the plan,” Bill Baker said. “but with the new setbacks, it’s not going to matter. Who’s going to stop hunting?”

Mr. Baker said his main concern with hunting is the safety of residents, children and pets that could be running in the woods with the deer.

Ms. Throne-Holst closed public comment on the matter last week and opened a 30-day written comment period that will expire on Friday, January 16, according to the town clerk’s office.

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I spoke for 3 minutes and never once mentioned safety. And how many children, residents, and pets run with the deer? Obviously you didn't attend the meeting. -Bill Baker
By mmaxdaddy (2), remsenburg on Dec 26, 14 8:53 PM
Mr. Baker: Alexa did attend the meeting and included comments you made in a subsequent conversation you had with her after the hearing on the town's deer management plan. I hope that clears things up.
By Frank Costanza (19), Westhampton Beach on Dec 27, 14 9:05 AM
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