Editorial: What will the tick task force conclude?

You’ve got to feel just a bit sorry for the members of County Legislator Ed Romaine’s tick task force, which held its first local public hearing in Peconic last week.

As the story on page 3 of this week’s edition points out, the group’s members spoke little but heard a lot. The information passed on to them was far from new — people suffering over the years with a variety of debilitating tick-borne diseases, not just the universally known and feared Lyme disease.

The question is what to do with it all.

Ticks are everywhere — in fields, forests, farms and our own backyards. Some are nearly impossible to see, but their bites can cause maladies impossible to ignore. The burgeoning deer population most often gets the blame but, like it or not, the deer will always be with us.

Hunting alone won’t cull the herd enough to make a measurable difference, nor will adding contraceptives to feeding stations. In favorable conditions — and the one fact that has become all too clear is the East End with its farms and lawns and tasty (to deer, anyway) gardens and shrubs offers ideal conditions — a deer herd can increase by 40 percent a year.

Tests of the “4-Poster” tick control system on Shelter Island, which gives a dose of insecticide to deer dining at a feeding station, has shown that approach can work, but the idea has yet to catch on with local governments. That’s not surprising, since each of the Shelter Island 4-Posters cost $5,000 a year to maintain and fears persist that potentially harmful pesticides might find their way into the environment and the food chain.

As Southold Town discovered in creating its deer management program, hunting restrictions are the state’s purview and the state shows absolutely no interest in relaxing hunting restrictions in populated areas.

That’s why we feel a bit sorry for the tick task force. Theirs seems an impossible task and, not to prejudge, but there’s absolutely nothing to be gained by the release of a report concluding that the problem is serious and something should be done about it.

That became all too obvious many years ago.

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