Editorial: Gov. Hochul, please sign this bill

New York State Senate Bill 4804, sponsored by state Sen. Anthony Palumbo and Assemblyman Fred Thiele, passed both houses in Albany earlier this year. The bill has yet to be signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul, which is puzzling, given the critical issue the bill hopes to address.

Once signed into law, Bill 4804 would revolutionize the culling of deer in Southold and could become a model for the other East End towns, where deer numbers are so high the understory in our woods has been destroyed and tick ailments are an ever-present risk to public health.

We’ve said it before: The serious problems caused by a hugely oversized deer herd cannot continue. They are a threat to the public health. Strong measures must be taken. The Palumbo-Thiele bill is a way forward — but only if it becomes law.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued reports on the increasing nationwide prevalence of Alpha-gal syndrome, a tick-associated condition that causes those who contract it to become allergic to some meats.

This disease is caused by the Lone Star tick, which in recent years has made its way here from the southeast and is now the dominant tick on the East End, crowding out deer and dog ticks. Even more concerning, the CDC report points a finger at eastern Long Island, estimating that some 4% of all AGS cases nationwide occur here. 

Those infected by this tick develop serious allergies to meats like steak and hamburger and, in rare cases, can experience anaphylactic shock. One person we spoke to about her condition says she now routinely carries an EpiPen.

If the governor signs Bill 4804 into law, the new regulations would be managed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Crossbows would be legal to use and, importantly, hunters could receive compensation for culling the herd. 

There are an estimated 7,000 deer in both Riverhead and Southold towns. Hundreds more are born each year. They destroy woodlands and farmers’ crops and many if not most North Fork vineyards are now surrounded by eight-foot fences to keep them out. This only pushes them onto our yards. At most, the two towns could sustain a herd a third the size of the one we now have.

In an email, Mr. Palumbo said he is pushing for the bill to be signed. We urge him to continue his efforts, as this crisis is only getting worse.

“This year, Assemblyman Thiele and I passed legislation in both houses of the state Legislature, with overwhelming bipartisan support, to address the exploding deer population,” he wrote. “With Lyme and new tick-borne illnesses an ever-present health concern for local residents, we urge Gov. Hochul to sign this legislation into law and to begin the deer management program as a first, and important, step to addressing Long Island’s deer population on a larger scale.”