No. 2 Story of the Year: Big deer cull falters

A federal sharpshooter's view from an elevated box blind on a Nassau Point property during a 2013 deer cull. (Courtesy photo)
A federal sharpshooter’s view from an elevated box blind on a Nassau Point property during a 2013 deer cull. (Courtesy photo)

At this point last year, the deer cull controversy was in full swing.

Months of discussion had already taken place over the value of using $225,000 in state funding to hire federal sharpshooters to reduce the deer population on the East End. Sides had already started to form between those in favor of the effort and those against.

Last year saw those sides go toe to toe.

Southold Town was the only East End municipality to contribute money toward the cull. A public forum to discuss its merits was held in Peconic at the end of January, with representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Long Island Farm Bureau — which spearheaded the effort — and elected town and county officials. There, hunters and those concerned about the safety of deer made their opposition known.

Over the next month, a lawsuit was filed against Southold Town to prevent the cull from happening. That suit ultimately failed and was replaced by another one, this time aimed at the Department of Environmental Conservation, which oversees the permits sharpshooters needed to carry out the cull.

While some permits were issued, a state judge capped the number available and in the end, less than 200 deer were killed in three East End towns where the sharpshooters operated.

“It didn’t work,” Joe Gergela, LIFB executive director, admitted after the numbers came out.

A report issued after the cull called for a “regional, integrated approach” to reducing the herd in the future.

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