Column: Yes, deer, your time has come here

09/28/2013 10:00 AM |


In recent times, the former Joan Giger Walker and I have been privileged to spend a significant chunk of time in the six-million-acre Adirondack Park in upstate New York. It’s a land of infinite beauty and seemingly infinite wildlife, including deer, which we occasionally observe in the wild. And then we return to downstate Orient, where we see more deer walking up and down Village Lane and King Street in one night than we see in the Adirondacks in an entire month.

It’s gotten so bad here that we’ve had to install deer fencing around the entire perimeter of our yard to prevent the insatiable beasts from nibbling every single plant and shrub down to the nub. And before we wised up an installed the fencing, the pests ate several thousand dollars worth of plantings.

We are not alone. Everywhere I look in our neighborhood there are signs of damage done by deer.

Southold: Clear out so we can better hunt deer

Just last week at dusk I spotted three deer in our driveway, just outside the perimeter of the deer fencing. I went out on the front porch to chase them away, and they looked back at me like I was the intruder. The buck, in particular, stared me down like Robert DeNiro in “Taxi Driver.” I could have sworn I heard him (the deer, not Robert) say, “You talkin’ to me?” as he casually crossed the street into our neighbor’s yard, where he stopped and stared some more. I briefly considered, but then rejected, the idea of running upstairs to grab my single-shot .410 shotgun — just to fire a warning shot over his antlers, of course — but then opted for tossing a broken tree branch in his direction. I think he may have given me the finger as he crossed behind our neighbor’s house.

This would, of course, be largely laughable if it weren’t for the fact that the exploding deer popular here is much more than a threat to our landscaping. There are literally hundreds of incidents of car versus deer every year, and occasionally the consequences are fatal, as they were five years ago when our friend Bob Wiesehahn was killed after his motorcycle struck a deer late at night on the North Road in Greenport.

And then there is the well-documented role deer play in serving as a vector for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, which has changed the way all of us who live and visit here approach our outdoor activities during the non-winter months. Best advice: stay out of the woods entirely.

Three years ago in this space I wrote a column suggesting that Southold Town adopt a deer culling program similar to the one that has been so successful on Shelter Island. Three years later no such program is in place here, and the deer problem is worse than ever.

Isn’t it patently obvious what needs to be done? And how much longer must we wait before someone in a position of authority makes the tough call we all know needs to be made?

Yes, indeed, let’s talk about the deer problem (again) Thursday night at the rec center. And then, please, let’s agree (finally) to do something substantive and effective about it. Once and for all.

Disappearance of the dories

So it turns out the traditional clam chowder contest wasn’t the only staple missing from this past weekend’s Greenport Maritime Festival, which by all accounts was one of the biggest (in terms of attendance) and best ever. With little fanfare — and, in fact, absolutely no notice that can be discerned — there were no traditional whaleboat races (or rather, dory races, since the vessels in which the races are contested are actually Grand Banks dories). The races have been a part of the festival for as long as I can remember.

Three factors contributed to this non-event:

1) No teams pre-registered, which has become the norm in recent years;

2) organizer burnout, wherein key volunteers who normally oversee the races, your faithful correspondent included, either failed to turn up or contrived to be out of town; and

3) organic decomposition, wherein the two surviving 25-year-old wooden dories themselves were again at risk of sinking to the bottom of Greenport Harbor.

If there are to be dory races at next year’s festival, several things need to happen:

1) A new generation of volunteers must step up to organize the event (I’m thinking former Southold Town supervisor Josh Horton would be a perfect candidate for this job.)

2) A new group of businesses or benefactors must underwrite the purchase of two new boats; and/or

3) One or more of Greenport’s current crop of skilled wooden boat builders must volunteer to build those boats themselves, or corral a group of young people into building it under their supervision.

What about it, folks? Is anyone out there listening? It’s the maritime heritage of Greenport, calling your name.