Dozens of residents at a Huntington Town public hearing Tuesday voiced opposing views on a proposal to allow longbow hunting to address overpopulation of deer in Eatons Neck and Asharoken.
The resolution would create an exception in the town's firearms code for the two neighboring North Shore communities, which are a combined 7.5 square miles and have a total population of about 2,000.
Hunters would be required to have a valid hunting license and a separate bow hunting license from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Town Supervisor Frank P. Petrone said the hunting would only be allowed in the Village of Asharoken and the hamlet of Eatons Neck and intended for residents on their own property.
Supporters discussed finding many aggressive deer on their property, personal struggles with Lyme disease and the road hazard deer can pose.
"Your constituents are telling you they're coming into conflicts with deer," said Michael Tessitore, president of the nonprofit group, Hunters for Deer. "When people are seeing 17 in their yard, that's when we have an issue. And the only effective way to deal with an overpopulation of deer is through effective archery hunting in residential areas."
Opponents suggested sterilization and contraception as options and argued that using a longbow is cruel, sometimes leaving the animal in agony for hours before dying.
Christine Ballow of Eatons Neck likened it to the suffering of Cecil, a beloved lion in a Zimbabwean national park that made international headlines after a Minnesota dentist shot it with an arrow, later killing the animal.
"It survived 40 hours before they had to shoot him with a rifle to kill him," Ballow said. "My concern is the suffering."
Some also argued that hunting is not an effective way to control population, citing the hypothesis that as a population is killed off, more food and shelter becomes available to those remaining. As a result, well-fed animals have less competition for mates, spurring an increase in reproduction that undermines population control efforts.
The deer hunting season is Oct. 1-Jan. 31. Petrone said if the board decides to move forward with the resolution this year, it would have to vote on it at the Sept. 16 Town Hall meeting.
Deer overpopulation has been a contentious issue throughout Suffolk County, particularly on the East End. Sharpshooters from the U.S. Department of Agriculture killed 192 deer on the North Fork last year in the largest federal deer-removal program in the state's history. The program fell short of proponents' goal of killing as many as 3,000 deer.