More hunting is needed to solve Suffolk County's deer problem
In 2019, Suffolk County ranked third in the state for automobile accidents involving animals, mostly deer. In 2020, Suffolk ranked second. And last year it came in first with 1,368 such accidents reported, an increase of 20% since 2018.
Suffolk needs more deer hunting.
Gov. Kathy Hochul correctly vetoed a bill last week that would have banned hunting on state land next to a Hampton Bays wildlife rehabilitation center where shots struck a cage last year. Hochul’s decision was based on the already-heavy regulation of hunting in Suffolk County. That the hunter who fired those shots last year faced charges including criminal mischief and discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a farm structure supports that decision.
Deer-hunting firearm season begins Sunday and ends Jan. 31. Bowhunting began on Oct. 1 and ends Jan. 31. Hunters and Department of Environmental Conservation officials say that isn’t enough, and are pushing increased hunting to deal with the exploding deer population. Birth control has proved ineffective and cost-prohibitive. The DEC says the most cost-effective method of controlling deer populations is hunting. But there has been a 40% decline in hunting participation in New York since the 1980s.
Experts urge expanding hunting seasons. A change this year to extend hunting an hour, by opening 30 minutes before sunrise and closing 30 minutes after sunset, matches the law in 46 other states and is a good start. But we also must push the state’s Venison Donation Project as a good cause and good use of meat, and work with private and public property owners to make land more accessible to hunting.
In Suffolk, the fright for drivers when hitting a deer or even having a close call tells us that pursuing those answers is our best shot.
MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.