E. Hampton deer-control plan draws criticism

Deer graze fearlessly in front of a home Deer graze fearlessly in front of a home on Jacobs Lane in Southold. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona (2012)

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East Hampton officials didn't set out to draw up a deer-management plan that included something for everyone in the town to hate. But -- based on a two-hour public hearing Thursday night -- that seemed to be just what they did.

The 30-page plan -- posted on the town website -- took two years to put together and calls for a five-year effort leading to a sharp reduction in deer, initially by killing hundreds and then by finding other methods to control the population.

Some residents said that was too cruel. Others said the deer population would quickly rebound.

Some insisted a survey and scientific evaluation of the deer herd be done before any action is taken; others said something has to be done immediately to reduce the deer population, and the auto accidents and property destruction they cause.

"This plan is flawed and unethical," said Ellen Crain of the East Hampton Group for Wildlife, urging that it not be adopted.

"You say the deer are uncontrolled. There's no evidence of that," she added. "The plan blames car accidents on the deer [but] cars speed all over the roads at night."

The plan says 443 dead deer were found after being hit by cars on town roads in 2009 -- the most recent year for which data was available -- and that deer that die in the woods after being hit are not counted.

"Think what it does to our children when they ride around and see dead and mangled deer on the side of the road," resident JoAnn Goldberg said. "The only immediate solution we face right now is culling the herd."

Some residents complained the plan is too costly -- expenses could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars -- while others said that not taking action would be more costly. Administering the hunt to cull the herds was estimated to cost $80,000 to $100,000.

"I think most of them didn't read the report," said Councilman Dominick J. Stanzione, who spearheaded the work on the plan. And, he adds, the biggest problem wasn't even discussed during the hearing.

He said so many entities -- town, county and state governments, and public and private preservation groups -- control different adjoining parcels of land that it will be almost impossible to coordinate the adoption of a single deer-control policy.

Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said the deer debate is typical for East Hampton, where many town residents have had strong and conflicting opinions about controversial issues such as how to deal with airport noise or what to do about erosion. "Everybody is an expert," he said.

Town officials are waiting for other agencies to review the deer plan, and expect to be able to adopt it early next year.

The board recently added $40,000 to its 2013 budget to pay for an aerial survey of deer in the town. "You have to know where you are. You have to start out with a number," Wilkinson said.

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