For the second consecutive year, Southold Town saw record high numbers in its deer management program for the 2018 hunting season, which ran from October to the end of January.
The total harvest for the regular and nuisance season was 339, reported environmental analyst Craig Jobes at a Town Board work session Tuesday.
In 2017, 246 deer were harvested for the season.
On town property, Mr. Jobes reported 164 deer were harvested, up from 123 for the 2017 season.
“That’s way above what we’ve gotten in past years,” Mr. Jobes said. Town properties with the highest deer numbers are located within the Bayview Avenue area of Southold and in Orient, he said.
Harvested deer are donated to food kitchens through the program, which began in 2008, and residents can also pick up deer for their own use. A record 65 were picked up by local community members, Mr. Jobes said.
The numbers do not include deer hit by vehicles, which would have to be obtained from the police department. Number of deer are also reported directly to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
The town’s program has served as a model for other municipalities exploring what to do about large deer populations. Moving forward, the town is hoping to offer the program to private property owners as well. Town Supervisor Scott Russell plans to survey property owners of five acres or more to gauge interest in expanding the hunting program. “A lot of [property owners] don’t know about hunting, so it gives us a chance to get them in a room and explain how it would work. Theoretically, we could see some changes next year, depending on what kind of response we get,” he said Tuesday.
Mr. Jobes hopes to see a rise in private-sector hunting. “We’re doing an unbelievable job on town-owned property. We need to focus on [private property] going forward,” he said.
According to Mr. Jobes, each doe harvested could account for three deer the following spring. He also reiterated that residents should refrain from feeding the animals.
The supervisor, praising the deer management effort, said holding the population in check should be seen as a victory “until we begin to see dramatic changes in Albany.”
“Frankly, it’s a public health issue,” he said.