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Hoping to control deer population, Belle Terre considers allowing limited bow hunting

White-tailed deer intrude on the property of homes

White-tailed deer intrude on the property of homes in Suffolk on Nov. 17, 2013. Credit: Randee Daddona

The village of Belle Terre is the latest Long Island community to consider allowing hunters to reduce a deer herd that residents say is damaging their properties.

Bow hunting would be permitted on properties of 5 acres or more during deer hunting season, from Oct. 1 to Jan. 31, Mayor Ted Lucki said. Hunting currently is banned in the village, which has about 300 homes and 1,000 residents.

Lucki said only five properties in the village are large enough to allow hunting under the proposed village code change. The village board has scheduled a public hearing on the proposal at 8 p.m. on Sept. 15 at Belle Terre Community Center, 55 Cliff Rd.

In addition to Belle Terre, Huntington Town also is considering allowing deer hunts. Huntington residents last month debated a proposal to allow deer hunting in Eatons Neck and Asharoken. Bow hunting is legal in Brookhaven and the East End towns.

In a special cull, federal sharpshooters last year killed 192 deer on the East End.

Belle Terre officials said foraging deer have wiped out gardens and grassy undergrowth that supports bird nests. Lucki said the problem is "out of control."

"Now they're eating everything in sight. We're concerned about erosion," said Lucki, who said he had opposed hunting, but has changed his mind because of the proliferation of deer in the community. "It's not an exaggeration when you can go in your backyard and see eight deer."

Hunting opponents have advocated nonlethal alternatives such as surgical sterilization or administering drugs through oral baits or darts, said Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington, D.C.

"One possible prospect is immunocontraception," she said. "There are various actions individuals can take, such as planting plants that are of less interest to deer."

Lucki said the cost of sterilizing deer -- about $1,000 per animal -- would be too expensive for the village. A deer cull would be "the humane way to control the population" because it would save many deer from starvation, he said.

"We're not trying to wipe the deer out," Lucki said. "The question is how to manage the number of deer."

Michael Tessitore, president of East Quogue-based Hunters for Deer, said bow hunting "is the only effective way to reduce" the number of deer, adding it is "the most cost-effective as well, because it's free. "

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