Editorial: Don’t run interference on the deer problem

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

There’s a pest problem on the North Fork. The people who live and work here know about it; they live with it its consequences every day. Damaged cars. Replacing devastated plantings and produce. Checking constantly for ticks. Repeated doctor visits. 

But these concerns mean nothing to the out-of-town special interest groups whose litigious actions have prevented the deer cull from expanding. A state Supreme Court judge’s ruling in March not only prevented the state DEC from granting additional permits to allow federally trained sharpshooters to bait and kill deer here without having to observe setback rules, but is making the deer overpopulation problem exponentially worse. That’s because the stay also applies to the nuisance permits farmers would otherwise be using to prevent deer from destroying their crops when it’s not hunting season.

To hear the leader of the Hunters for Deer group, co-plaintiffs in the suit against the DEC, tell it, the DEC is playing politics by not granting nuisance permits.

“The stay that’s on the nuisance permits is a joke,” said the group’s leader, Mike Tessitore, who claims all the DEC would have to do is come to his group, which could in turn allow the stay to be lifted for any particular application.

“It’s so wrong and so one-sided that the DEC would turn it into a game at this point,” he said.

Now let’s enter reality. If what Mr. Tessitore is saying is even a real possibility — and we have our doubts — what government body is going to cede its authority to approve hunting permits to two hastily assembled special interest groups? Especially when those same groups are suing that government body?

It’s misleading, if not flat-out untrue, to say that the DEC is preventing farmers from protecting their own livelihoods. It’s the lawsuits filed by Hunters for Deer and The Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island that are preventing people on the North Fork from addressing a serious problem — one with significant economic and health ramifications for our neighbors, friends and families. Locals need to ratchet up their efforts, support all culling and hunting efforts and tell the outside groups to take a hike — and check for ticks.