08/27/14 6:45am
08/27/2014 6:45 AM
White-tailed deer grazing in Southold Tuesday. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

White-tailed deer grazing in Southold. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Nearly six months after a controversial deer cull kicked off on farms across the East End, the results are finally in. And to the group that led the effort, the statistics are disappointing.  (more…)

08/12/14 3:33pm
08/12/2014 3:33 PM
Southold Town Supervisor  Scott Russell discusses the deer cull results at the East Marion Community Association meeting last Thursday. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell discusses the deer cull results at the East Marion Community Association meeting last Thursday. (Credit: Paul Squire)

The number of deer killed in Southold Town as part of the controversial federal cull that took place earlier this year was far outpaced by the town’s own hunting program, said Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell.

He said the federal efforts involving U.S. Department of Agriculture-trained sharpshooters were hampered by lawsuits and opposition from animal-rights and hunting groups.

Official numbers on the results of the cull have not yet been released by the Long Island Farm Bureau, which coordinated the efforts. The organization’s executive director, Joe Gergela, did not return calls seeking comment and USDA spokespeople have been referring all calls to the farm bureau.

Mr. Russell said the town’s hunting program was a success in killing 265 deer on town lands this year, the USDA cull totals from about a dozen private properties in town were lower, although he could not give exact amounts.

“The cull had been severely hamstrung,” Mr. Russell said  at a community association meeting in East Marion last Thursday. “There were groups out there that wanted to stop the cull and they were largely successful.

“The numbers [of deer killed] are going to be very low, I would say insignificant,” he added.

Opponents of the cull have called the USDA’s sharpshooter program — which involves baiting deer before shooting them, mostly at night — inhumane and a challenge to local hunter’s rights.

Mike Tessitore, president of the hunters-rights and conservation group Hunters for Deer, said he expected numbers for the cull to be low.

“It just goes to show you that hunters are not only a cheaper option but more effective,” he said.

The Long Island Farm Bureau, which had secured a $250,000 grant for the program, had lobbied all East End towns and villages last fall to contribute, asking for $25,000 from each town, including Brookhaven, and $15,000 from each village.

But the towns of Southampton, Riverhead and Shelter Island all eventually decided not to participate financially, leaving Southold as the only East End town to support the cull.

Yet sharpshooters did acquire permits to operate on private properties in Riverhead, Southold and Southampton towns, according to state Department of Environmental Conservation documents. In addition, Southold Town held its own hunting program on town-owned lands that were excluded from the cull.

Mr. Russell said Tuesday that the town will be refunded a portion of the $25,000 it paid the Long Island Farm Bureau, since the cull was minimized.

The effort was hampered in large part by a state Supreme Court decision in March that prevented the DEC from issuing any further deer hunting permits, essentially stopping the cull from expanding, Mr. Russell said.

Many of the private properties that had previously agreed to participate in the cull pulled out under pressure from the cull’s opponents, he added. Mr. Russell said the properties that remained were rendered practically unusable after hunters groups that opposed the cull — including Hunters for Deer — publicized the locations on social media and walked through the areas to disperse the deer.

But Mr. Tessitore said Tuesday that his group only posted photos of the locations, and took no steps to hamper cull activities there.

Those running the cull did attempt to “make the most” of the effort by donating thousands of pounds of venison to local food pantries, Mr. Russell said. But ultimately, he said, the cull was a disappointment.

“We have to do something here,” he said. “Deer are an economic crisis, deer are a public health crisis and believe it or not, deer are a huge environmental crisis. They’re devastating the ecosystem.”

Mr. Tessitore said in an interview that his group agreed that the deer population needed to be managed, but said federally managed culling is doing a job hunters could do for free with the right regulations.

“We want to make sure we have a good, healthy herd,” he said. “We want to protect our hunting opportunities but we also want to preserve the species … The DEC really needs to realize that hunting on Long Island needs to be regulated like a management tool, not a sport.”

Hunters for Deer was willing to work on a solution with those supporting the cull, he said. But he claims the organization was left out of the process; if the cull goes forward last this year, the group is resolved to continue to fight.

“We’re going to be more aggressive in our tactics next year,” Mr. Tessitore said. “We’re not going to be as passive.

“They’re not going to shove it down our throats like last time.”

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05/03/14 10:00am
05/03/2014 10:00 AM
These four gators were captured in the Peconic River in April 2013. (Credit: DEC courtesy, file)

These four gators were captured in the Peconic River in April 2013. (Credit: DEC courtesy, file)

Perhaps hoping to curb a recent trend of abandoning alligators on Long Island, authorities announced this week a first-ever “amnesty day” in Suffolk County for those who illegally own exotic animals.

“People who are in possession of these animals unlawfully can turn them in to us without fear of prosecution,” said Suffolk SPCA chief Roy Gross, whose group is hosting the May 10 event with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S Department of Agriculture. “No one will be asked to give their name.”

The announcement comes about a year after state Department of Environmental Conservation officers found five alligators in the Peconic River — one of which they shot —  and several others in areas elsewhere on Long Island.

In 2012, authorities recovered nine alligators over a span of just a few weeks in Suffolk County alone.

The event will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Town of Brookhaven Wildlife and Ecology Center at 249 Buckley Road in Holtsville.

Read more on alligators being found in Suffolk County.

Trained handlers will be on hand to accept the animals  from the public, officials said.

“The purpose of this effort is to get these illegally possessed animals into a controlled environment where they can be cared for properly,” Mr. Gross said.

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04/02/14 7:46pm
04/02/2014 7:46 PM

T1003_deer_2_KS_C

Opponents — and supporters — of a deer cull being carried out by the United States Department of Agriculture are still waiting, and will continue to wait, for court proceedings to resume after a court date scheduled for last Friday was indefinitely delayed by a state judge, who sought more time to read up on the facts on the case before hearing both sides.

(more…)

03/21/14 1:40pm
03/21/2014 1:40 PM

T1003_deer_2_KS_C


Anatomy of a deer cull
 author and former U.S. Department of Agriculture sharpshooter Joseph Albanese chatted live with Suffolk Times and Riverhead News-Review readers from 2 to 3 p.m. Friday.

Mr. Albanese answered questions based on his experiences participating in culls and other work with the USDA.  (more…)

03/07/14 11:41am
03/07/2014 11:41 AM
(Credit: Jim Colligan, file)

(Credit: Jim Colligan, file)

As the old saying goes: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

And so it went for opponents of a federal operation to cull deer across the East End — to a degree.

A state Supreme Court judge ruled yesterday that the Department of Environmental Conservation can no longer issue any deer damage permits in relation to the program, at least until March 28, limiting the number of deer that will be killed.

However, permits and deer tags that have been issued can be filled under the existing permits, the judge ruled.

(more…)

03/07/14 6:00am
(Credit: Jim Colligan, file)

(Credit: Jim Colligan, file)

TOWNS OUT IN FRONT

Over the last six months, a plan to hire federal sharpshooters to thin the white-tailed deer herd across the East End has divided many in our communities — and has unexpectedly united hunters with those who hope to protect the deer.

The letters in this newspaper probably illustrate those divisions better than anything else.  (more…)

03/05/14 3:19pm
03/05/2014 3:19 PM
USDA sharpshooters reportedly started culling the deer herd on private land early last week. (Credit: Mike Tessitore/Hunters for Deer)

USDA sharpshooters reportedly started culling the deer herd on private land early last week. (Credit: Mike Tessitore/Hunters for Deer)

After recent litigation against Southold Town was dismissed, opponents of a plan to cull deer on the East End using U.S. Department of Agriculture sharpshooters — a plan that’s already underway — now intend to take the state Department of Environmental Conservation to court for allowing the program to move forward.  (more…)