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Deer management tops agenda of county’s first legislative committee meeting held on the East End in many years

Amy Dries, left, and Hazel Kahan gave a presentation on deer management this morning at the county legislature's environment, planning and agriculture committee meeting.
Photo: Denise Civiletti

Representatives of the North Fork Deer Management Alliance gave a presentation today at the first Suffolk County legislative committee meeting held at the Riverhead County Center in more than a decade.

Hazel Kahan and Amy Dries discussed the scope of the deer problem on the North Fork with members of the legislature’s Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee.

Kahan and Dries have been speaking to community and civic organizations to spread the word about “the seven biggest myths about deer” — and to garner support for the idea of hunting as the most effective and humane way of dealing with the deer crisis no the North Fork. The alliance is working to raise funds to carry the $10,000 cost of printing and mailing a brochure about the issue.

Committee members asked questions about the effectiveness of alternative management techniques, including four-posters and sterilization, that didn’t include culling the herd.

Legislator Sarah Anker asked if the deer on could be trapped and relocated upstate.

“I don’t think they want them upstate either,” Kahan answered.

After extensive research the organization concluded that herd reduction is the only feasible management method that can make a lasting difference, she said.

Kahan and Dries touched on the negative impacts of the deer population on the North Fork: destruction of the understory of forested lands; destruction of tree seedlings; water pollution from deer feces; costly agricultural crop losses; and the spread of tick-borne diseases.

“The Centers for Disease Control lists 14 tick-borne diseases,” Dries said. “Suffolk County health officials have documented eight of them here in Suffolk.” Lyme Disease is just one of them.

In addition, 25 percent of all accidents in Southold Town involve hitting a deer, Kahan said. The number of deer-vehicle accidents rose to 243 in 2015, up from 229 in 2014. The rate of deer-vehicle accidents in Southold is three times the national average, she said.

Hunting is the only realistic way to manage the deer population, but it cannot be managed by recreational hunting alone, according to the group. Studies done by Cornell University show that 66 percent of the population would have to be removed each year in order to reduce the herd to a sustainable level.

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.