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Asharoken mayor drops idea to restrict bow hunting; activists protest

The Asharoken Village Board met Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, to discuss the bow hunting of deer while residents and animal welfare activists protested outside. (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)

Asharoken Mayor Greg Letica said Tuesday night the village would not change its code to restrict bow hunting deer, an announcement that immediately followed a protest on the steps of Village Hall by opponents of the practice.

Animal welfare activists had gathered at 6:30 p.m., bearing signs featuring slogans such as “Bowhunting in Asharoken is unsafe” and drawings of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with an arrow through his head and his antlers cut off.

“It’s a quality-of-life issue,” said Jackie Elsas, of Asharoken, one of 15 protesters, some of whom came from Eatons Neck and other parts of Long Island. “It really changes when you see a stranger in your neighbor’s yard with a bow and arrow.”

An hour later, during the monthly village board meeting, Letica said he did not plan to pursue a code change creating a deeper setback for hunters as proposed in an email to residents last week.

“There does not seem to be any support in this village for a change in our code in regard to deer,” Letica said, noting only 12 people had responded to his email seeking public feedback on the issue.

He said all 12 supported efforts to control the population, three of whom backed his proposal, which would have required bow hunters to be set back 500 feet from a neighbor’s house — farther than the current 150 feet allowed under state Department of Environmental Conservation law.

The issue remains controversial in the second season of active bow hunting in Asharoken and Eatons Neck. It came to a head during a Nov. 13 incident in which a deer hit by a hunter’s arrow ran and died on the property of a neighbor, Asharoken resident Cindy Gavel, who opposes the deer hunting.

“If the residents would like to see some kind of alteration to our code, we seek their input,” Letica said. “If the sentiment in the village is to make a change, the board is here.”

The protest was organized with the support of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature, better known as LION, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said John Di Leonardo, president of LION and a campaigner for PETA.

“Humans have badly encroached on wildlife natural habitats,” Di Leonardo said Tuesday. “We should allow deer to live freely.”

Many have voiced support for the practice, allowing hunting on their properties and calling for population-control measures, citing the risks the animals pose in spreading Lyme disease and causing car crashes.

Those reasons and the booming deer population are why Asharoken resident Nancy Janow allowed hunting on her property.

“We love animals too, but this has gotten out of hand,” Janow said Tuesday. “It’s gotten beyond what bow hunting will remedy.”

Seven village police officers and seven provided by the Suffolk County Police Department were called to monitor the protest, and village police closed the building’s parking lot for safety.

Huntington Town proposed and passed a measure in 2015 allowing the practice on private property, with the owner’s consent. Huntington’s law matches a 2014 change in DEC policy that reduced the hunter setback requirement from 500 feet to 150 feet.

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