08/12/14 3:33pm
08/12/2014 3:33 PM
Southold Town Supervisor  Scott Russell discusses the deer cull results at the East Marion Community Association meeting last Thursday. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell discusses the deer cull results at the East Marion Community Association meeting last Thursday. (Credit: Paul Squire)

The number of deer killed in Southold Town as part of the controversial federal cull that took place earlier this year was far outpaced by the town’s own hunting program, said Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell.

He said the federal efforts involving U.S. Department of Agriculture-trained sharpshooters were hampered by lawsuits and opposition from animal-rights and hunting groups.

Official numbers on the results of the cull have not yet been released by the Long Island Farm Bureau, which coordinated the efforts. The organization’s executive director, Joe Gergela, did not return calls seeking comment and USDA spokespeople have been referring all calls to the farm bureau.

Mr. Russell said the town’s hunting program was a success in killing 265 deer on town lands this year, the USDA cull totals from about a dozen private properties in town were lower, although he could not give exact amounts.

“The cull had been severely hamstrung,” Mr. Russell said  at a community association meeting in East Marion last Thursday. “There were groups out there that wanted to stop the cull and they were largely successful.

“The numbers [of deer killed] are going to be very low, I would say insignificant,” he added.

Opponents of the cull have called the USDA’s sharpshooter program — which involves baiting deer before shooting them, mostly at night — inhumane and a challenge to local hunter’s rights.

Mike Tessitore, president of the hunters-rights and conservation group Hunters for Deer, said he expected numbers for the cull to be low.

“It just goes to show you that hunters are not only a cheaper option but more effective,” he said.

The Long Island Farm Bureau, which had secured a $250,000 grant for the program, had lobbied all East End towns and villages last fall to contribute, asking for $25,000 from each town, including Brookhaven, and $15,000 from each village.

But the towns of Southampton, Riverhead and Shelter Island all eventually decided not to participate financially, leaving Southold as the only East End town to support the cull.

Yet sharpshooters did acquire permits to operate on private properties in Riverhead, Southold and Southampton towns, according to state Department of Environmental Conservation documents. In addition, Southold Town held its own hunting program on town-owned lands that were excluded from the cull.

Mr. Russell said Tuesday that the town will be refunded a portion of the $25,000 it paid the Long Island Farm Bureau, since the cull was minimized.

The effort was hampered in large part by a state Supreme Court decision in March that prevented the DEC from issuing any further deer hunting permits, essentially stopping the cull from expanding, Mr. Russell said.

Many of the private properties that had previously agreed to participate in the cull pulled out under pressure from the cull’s opponents, he added. Mr. Russell said the properties that remained were rendered practically unusable after hunters groups that opposed the cull — including Hunters for Deer — publicized the locations on social media and walked through the areas to disperse the deer.

But Mr. Tessitore said Tuesday that his group only posted photos of the locations, and took no steps to hamper cull activities there.

Those running the cull did attempt to “make the most” of the effort by donating thousands of pounds of venison to local food pantries, Mr. Russell said. But ultimately, he said, the cull was a disappointment.

“We have to do something here,” he said. “Deer are an economic crisis, deer are a public health crisis and believe it or not, deer are a huge environmental crisis. They’re devastating the ecosystem.”

Mr. Tessitore said in an interview that his group agreed that the deer population needed to be managed, but said federally managed culling is doing a job hunters could do for free with the right regulations.

“We want to make sure we have a good, healthy herd,” he said. “We want to protect our hunting opportunities but we also want to preserve the species … The DEC really needs to realize that hunting on Long Island needs to be regulated like a management tool, not a sport.”

Hunters for Deer was willing to work on a solution with those supporting the cull, he said. But he claims the organization was left out of the process; if the cull goes forward last this year, the group is resolved to continue to fight.

“We’re going to be more aggressive in our tactics next year,” Mr. Tessitore said. “We’re not going to be as passive.

“They’re not going to shove it down our throats like last time.”

[email protected]

04/02/14 7:46pm
04/02/2014 7:46 PM

T1003_deer_2_KS_C

Opponents — and supporters — of a deer cull being carried out by the United States Department of Agriculture are still waiting, and will continue to wait, for court proceedings to resume after a court date scheduled for last Friday was indefinitely delayed by a state judge, who sought more time to read up on the facts on the case before hearing both sides.

(more…)

03/07/14 11:41am
03/07/2014 11:41 AM
(Credit: Jim Colligan, file)

(Credit: Jim Colligan, file)

As the old saying goes: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

And so it went for opponents of a federal operation to cull deer across the East End — to a degree.

A state Supreme Court judge ruled yesterday that the Department of Environmental Conservation can no longer issue any deer damage permits in relation to the program, at least until March 28, limiting the number of deer that will be killed.

However, permits and deer tags that have been issued can be filled under the existing permits, the judge ruled.

(more…)

03/07/14 6:00am
(Credit: Jim Colligan, file)

(Credit: Jim Colligan, file)

TOWNS OUT IN FRONT

Over the last six months, a plan to hire federal sharpshooters to thin the white-tailed deer herd across the East End has divided many in our communities — and has unexpectedly united hunters with those who hope to protect the deer.

The letters in this newspaper probably illustrate those divisions better than anything else.  (more…)

02/28/14 3:01pm

121610i_DeerTick_JC

After months of debate and a failed lawsuit filed by opponents of the plan, a deer cull kicked off this week across multiple private properties on eastern Long Island, as parcels in Southold, Riverhead and Southampton have received state approval for the hunt.

A source familiar with the operation said the sharpshooters started working Riverhead Monday.

(more…)

02/06/14 10:48am
02/06/2014 10:48 AM
LYNETTE DALLAS COURTESY PHOTO | Deer on Deep Hole Drive in Mattituck.

LYNETTE DALLAS COURTESY PHOTO | Deer on Deep Hole Drive in Mattituck.

Predictions of how many deer will be killed through a federal program aimed at culling herds across the East End have fallen sharply as towns and villages back away from participation.

And as it looks now, Southold may end up being the only local government to partake in the program.

(more…)

01/30/14 9:00am
01/30/2014 9:00 AM
JOSEPH PINCIARO FILE PHOTO

JOSEPH PINCIARO FILE PHOTO

Opponents of a deer cull slated to take place in Southold Town are turning up the heat after they say speaking out at public hearings has failed to convince local elected leaders to hit the brakes.

But the town is still moving forward as planned. (more…)

01/16/14 11:05pm
01/16/2014 11:05 PM
JOSEPH PINCIARO PHOTO | Mike Tessitore, of Hunters for Deer, voiced his concern with plans to proceed with a deer culling program in Southold on Thursday night.

JOSEPH PINCIARO PHOTO | Mike Tessitore, of Hunters for Deer, voiced his concern with plans to proceed with a deer culling program in Southold on Thursday night.

With a controversial deer cull expected to begin within weeks in Southold Town, over 125 people showed up in Peconic on Thursday night to hear out members of the entity in charge of running the program, as well as local leaders who say they plan to still move full steam ahead with the program, despite a strong showing from a group of hunters opposed to the idea. (more…)