Population control a heated topic among East Hampton Village mayoral contenders

Deer In The Candidates’ Headlights




Infographic: Independent/Karen Fredericks

Many traffic accidents are caused by deer every year. And there is an exploding number of tickborne illnesses blamed on the deer, too. Yet another concern is damage to property and landscaping where these animals forage.

The Village of East Hampton has spent much time, effort, and money trying to find solutions to these problems. In recent years, some of those attempts have included controlled hunts, contraceptives, and feeding stations where deer pass through against insecticide-soaked posts in an effort to kill the ticks they carry.

A 2014 village-approved deer sterilization program proved to be a disaster. According to a story in a previous issue of The Independent, “Deer were trapped and surgically sterilized in the middle of the night before being released back into the cold of winter. A team from White Buffalo Inc., a Connecticut nonprofit that specializes in deer management, claimed 114 were sterilized. Horror tales began circulating about the grisly methodology and effectiveness of the program, and several mutilated deer carcasses were found. The village, though loath to admit it had made a mistake, quietly backed away from the plan.”

Currently in place is a controlled shoot manned by “expert shooters” that has many residents concerned.

But the problems caused by the deer continue, as does the discussion of what to do about them. The Village Preservation Society posed a question on the topic to village mayoral candidates Barbara Borsack, the current deputy mayor; Arthur Graham, a current board member; and Jerry Larsen, a former village police chief.

The Question: Deer are a scientifically accepted vector in the spread of Lyme disease and other tickborne illnesses. Several years ago, the Village Preservation Society proposed sterilization as a middle ground to doing nothing, or a baited cull. What do you propose to control the deer population? Do you endorse culling? Do you endorse sterilization?

Borsack:

I would like to see us give the new program an opportunity to work. I believe we will have positive results from this quiet way of dealing with a difficult issue as both Sagaponack and North Haven have been using this program and are very pleased with the result after a few years. They have seen a significant reduction in the deer population. We are optimistic that we will see similar results.

Graham:

I have long maintained that we suffer an overpopulation of deer in the village. Wildlife experts have said that the proper density for white-tailed deer is between 15 and 25 animals per square mile. By most estimates, we have about 450 deer in our 4.9 square miles, so you can see that we are way overpopulated. The village has engaged a bow-hunting consultant who has had great success in other South Fork villages; we expect our first report sometime in April.

Sterilization, which can be effective if continued over a period of many years, is also quite expensive, and many in the village ridiculed the “earring” with which the sterilized deer were marked. A quiet bow-hunting cull on private property promises more effective population control to manage the village herd to an ecologically-sustainable size.

Larsen:

I am aware that the VPS sponsored the sterilization program that the village authorized in 2014 with all the right intentions. I was the village police chief when this program was initiated. I witnessed firsthand how barbaric and inhumane this process was. Most of the deer were pregnant, and this procedure killed the fetus, and later, when the deer attempted to give birth, in some cases it killed the mother in an excruciating painful death.

I will call for a scientific deer count to confirm what we suspect — that the village has an overpopulation of deer. If that is confirmed, I support a procedure that injects a contraceptive drug into the doe that will reduce the deer population over time. I will not support a cull at this time. The village has not done anything about this issue for six years. If this process had already been started, we may have seen a reduction in the deer population today.

Editor’s note: Jerry Larsen is currently head of security for Ronald Perelman, who owns The Independent.

We are reaching out to our readers. What do you think? We’d like to hear from you. Send your comments and questions for the candidates to: karen@indyeastend.com.

karen@indyeastend.com