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Nonlethal control of deer population urged

A wild white-tailed deer near a hiking trail

A wild white-tailed deer near a hiking trail atop Perkins Memorial Drive in Bear Mountain State Park. (July 9, 2012) Credit: Jim Alcorn

Earlier this year, East Hampton officials issued a draft deer management plan stating that "the uncontrolled explosion in the deer population has reached an emergency level" and represents a threat to public health and safety, personal property and the environment.

The town board recently implemented one recommendation in the report, increasing the sites where bow hunting is permitted, and has been exploring other ways to reduce the population.

But at a Thursday night board meeting, a half-dozen residents said one argument presented by the town was wrong and argued that East Hampton should be protecting its deer, not killing them.

Deer, they stated, do not spread Lyme disease. The culprits are tiny, black-legged ticks commonly called deer ticks that carry B. burgdorferi, a bacterium that infects the tick and causes Lyme disease, which is marked by fever, rash and joint pain but treatable with antibiotics. While deer do not spread the disease, they do transport infected ticks. Town officials do not have statistics on the area's deer population.

The speakers urged people to drive slower to reduce risk of hitting deer and to change their outdoor plants to species less tasty to the animal.

When the subject changed to crowing roosters a few minutes later, the tolerance for wildlife ended. Three people stood up and demanded a law to ban the birds from residential property, saying they are noisy, uncontrollable and incredibly annoying.

That was too much for Diane McNally, 53, a town trustee who has lived in East Hampton all her life. "I've always had chickens and roosters and ducks in my backyard," she said. "This is a rural community. . . . Don't mess with my birds."

The town board took no action on the issue.

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