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Town to hold forum on local deer crisis

Southold Town will host a forum on deer management Wednesday, Sept. 12.

The meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall, will address the excessive deer population on the North Fork.

According to town environmental analyst Craig Jobes, the dramatic increase in the white-tailed deer population has resulted in widespread landscape damage and crop losses, as well as an increase in Lyme disease and vehicular collisions.

In 2009, the town created a Deer Management Task Force to address both health and economic consequences of an unchecked deer population. According to a management plan created in 2016 to address the issue, deer populations have reached “emergency” levels.

To cull the herd, an emphasis was placed on the hunting season, which opens Oct. 1. According to the town’s deer management website, over 1,400 deer have been harvested from the 2008 hunting season through 2016, with over 40,000 pounds of venison donated to food pantries across Long Island.

Mr. Jobes said that managing the deer population comes with its own challenges, including New York State Department of Environmental Conservation regulations and land ownership. “A very large percentage of the town is privately owned, making it difficult to conduct deer management efforts,” he said.

He hopes that residents will attend the meeting to learn more about impacts on the local environment as well as what the community can do to help.

He will give a presentation on the town’s hunting program and up-to-date statistics on the program, and several guest speakers are scheduled from state and federal agencies.

Sue Booth-Binczik, a wildlife biologist with the NYSDEC Division of Fish and Wildlife, will present on the basic ecology of deer, impacts of overpopulation and management options. Allen Gosser, the state director for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services, will discuss current USDA approaches to deer management statewide as well as current laws in place that can restrict those efforts.

Thomas Rawinski, a botanist with the U.S. Forest Service, will talk about negative effects deer have on their surrounding ecosystems and plant life. Mr. Rawinski has been presenting his findings across the Northeast and is currently working on a study in Southold Town, Mr. Jobes said.

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