With support from private landowners, town expands acreage for annual deer cull

The Southold Deer Management Program has expanded the acreage of land included in the annual cull this year after a survey of private landowners garnered wide support for the program.

Earlier this year, a survey was sent to people who own five or more acres of land to gauge interest in expanding the town-run hunt.

At a work session Tuesday, town environmental analyst Craig Jobes reported the response has been overwhelming, with an approximate 79% approval and responses still trickling in.

“We’re receiving a lot of yeses,” Mr. Jobes said.

In years prior, deer were only culled on approximately 360 acres of town-owned property.

Working with the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, an additional 350 acres of property, much of it county land or land owned jointly between the town and county, has been added. Factoring in the eligible private land, a little over 1,000 acres will be included in the program this year, Town Supervisor Scott Russell said.

“People are realizing this program works,” added Councilwoman Jill Doherty.

Last year, for the second consecutive year, the town saw record highs in its deer management program, with 339 harvested.

Mr. Jobes and Jeff Standish, director of the Department of Public Works, had advocated for a rise in private-sector hunting.

“We all know, you hunt this piece, then the deer run next door and you can’t get to them,” Mr. Standish said. “So we’ve opened up some of that [land].”

Before the season opens this fall, residents who agree to participate will be able to learn more about the program and its hunters, Mr. Standish said.

“The homeowner and the hunter have to have confidence in each other,” he said.

Mr. Jobes said private landowners as well as tree and potato farmers have also inquired about nuisance hunting. He’s helped some of those property owners obtain permits through the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and hunters have been placed on several properties, he said.

Officials hope the measure will help enhance the success of the program, which was implemented due to high deer populations and the role they play in spreading tick-borne illnesses.

Working together with the deer management committee, the properties will be distributed to hunters in the coming months.

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