Editorial: Deer culling is a good model for the North Fork

The Nassau Point Property Owners Association is addressing the overpopulation of deer in its community in the one way that has proven to be successful: a cull. For the second year in a row, the association has hired a nonprofit group of volunteers to reduce the deer population through bowhunting. 

This is very welcome news for the North Fork, where the deer population is out of control. There are not just hundreds too many deer in Riverhead and Southold, but thousands. This causes hundreds of car accidents a year, with related insurance costs, and adversely impacts our natural environment as the deer continue to eat away at the understory of our woodlands.

To protect crops and plants, farmers, and even some homeowners, have installed eight-foot fences around their properties. These fences may keep the deer out, but they also push them onto other properties and into backyards where they do great damage.

A far more serious issue, of course, is tick-borne disease, which has spiked in proportion to the deer population, including the potentially crippling Lyme disease and a life-threatening allergy caused by the bite of an even scarier menace, the lone star tick.

It’s probably only a matter of time until local or state health authorities declare a state of emergency related to tick-borne illnesses.

Property owners on Nassau Point in Cutchogue say the area is simply overrun by deer. In truth, there probably shouldn’t be any deer on Nassau Point because of the number of houses, but gardens and some open wooded lots have attracted them in great numbers. There is no question that these deer, in these numbers, are a menace to the health and safety of residents and to the natural environment itself.

The association’s hiring of Hamilton Archers Inc. is a very welcome development and should encourage other communities in Riverhead and Southold towns to do the same. Individual homeowners can give hunters permission to hunt on their land during the recreational hunting season, Oct. 1 to Jan. 1 for bowhunting and Jan. 7-31 for shotgun hunting.

The hiring of Hamilton Archers is a game changer because the property owners association secured a “nuisance” permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Addressing the overpopulation of deer with a nuisance permit allows hunting to go on outside of the limits of the recreational seasons.

It also saves hunters the time and trouble of going door-to-door for permission from property owners; the association’s nuisance permit gives them the go-ahead to hunt.

This is a big step forward and other communities should take note. Seeing a herd of deer in your backyard is not normal; it is, in fact, a sign of a natural world that is badly out of balance. Farmers having to spend thousands of dollars on high fences to protect their crops is not helpful to their bottom lines. Hunting, as opposed to other methods, is the only way to bring down the high numbers of deer. Smaller numbers will bring with them a more hopeful outlook for the diseases that have changed many lives.