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The North Fork’s exploding deer population: What can we do about it?

File photo: Peter Blasl

North Fork residents concerned about the impacts of deer overpopulation are invited to an information session Saturday morning hosted by the East Marion Community Association.

Speakers Amy Dries and Hazel Kahan of the North Fork Deer Management Alliance and Dave Dominy, co-chair of the Southold Town Deer Management Task Force will discuss the seven “biggest myths” about deer, health impacts of deer, environmental damage and effective strategies for dealing with the herds.

Saturday’s meeting begins at 10 a.m. at the East Marion firehouse, with coffee and socializing at 9:30.

The North Fork Deer Management Alliance of Long Island was formed to promote the return of the deer population of the North Fork to a level compatible with the health and safety of the human population and the environmental and economic integrity of the region, according to the group’s website. It seeks to educate the public to the effects of an unbridled deer population and hopes to gather support for the deer management programs of town, county and state.

The alliance has advocated for the hiring by the town of a wildlife manager. Southold Town officials included the part-time position in the 2016 operating budget and are moving forward to establish it and hire someone to fill it, a task they hope to accomplish this spring.

Supervisor Scott Russell finalized a duty statement for the new post, which the town board signed off on at its last work session, clearing the way for Russell to submit the job description to the county department of civil service. The civil service department must classify the position before the town can actually fill it.

Councilman Bob Ghosio, the town board liaison to the town’s deer management committee, said during the work session on Feb. 23 that he presented the duty statement to the deer committee and they “wholeheartedly support it.”

The wildlife manager’s duties will include developing the town’s wildlife management plan, identifying ways to mitigate the overabundance of wildlife, including hunting and other population reduction measures, identifying parcels suitable for hunting and coordinating with those land owners to get the properties included in he program.

The wildlife manager will also develop and manage the town’s tick reduction program, working with the tick committee the town formed last year and will be responsible for public education and outreach.

Ghosio said he was struck by the recent characterization of the deer problem by The Nature Conservancy as “worse for our forests than global warming.” The environmental organization said the overabundance of deer is the greatest threats to forested habitats, greater than habitat conversion and climate change, Ghosio told fellow board members. “Only invasive exotic insects and disease are comparable in magnitude,” he said, quoting the group.

“The problem is not just here, it’s all over the Northeast, probably all over the country,” Ghosio said.

Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.