Shelter Islanders who responded en masse to a survey conducted by Shelter Island Town overwhelmingly supported hunting, including the use of professional hunters, as a means to control deer and tick populations.
The survey results, released Oct. 31, show that 72 percent of respondents “support the town contracting with appropriately trained/licensed personnel to reduce deer density.”
Only 57 percent said they would allow hunting on their own properties, though many respondents said their lots were too small or too close to other houses to make hunting feasible. But 136 respondents also offered the town contact information to set up hunting on their properties.
The hiring of professional hunters was a source of major controversy throughout the East End in the winter of 2014, when a cull organized by the Long Island Farm Bureau using USDA sharpshooters was shot down in East Hampton, while Southold went ahead with the program despite an organized campaign to stop it.
Only 53 percent of survey respondents said they support the four-poster program, which coats deer with the pesticide permethrin at feeding stations throughout the island.
Shelter Island Town Animal Control Officer Beau Payne presented the results of the survey at the Shelter Island Town Board’s Oct. 31 work session.
He said the town mailed out 3,688 surveys and received 1,210 responses, a 33 percent reply rate.
“That’s phenomenal,” he said. “That’s a fantastic response rate for a public survey like this. Obviously, the community is very involved and finds this important.”
The survey provided in-depth data on everything from the number of respondents who have suffered a tick-borne disease to methods they use at home to control deer and ticks to the dollar amount of property damage to landscaping or due to car accidents involving deer.
Ninety-five percent of respondents said they believe there is a tick problem on Shelter Island. Sixty percent said they had been treated for a tick-borne disease in the past, while nine percent said they were currently being treated for a tick-borne disease.
Eighty-two percent of respondents supported recreational hunting.
Of those who also supported professional hunting, nearly 80 percent said such a program would be effective, nearly 60 percent said it would be safe and nearly 45 percent said it would be cost effective.
Sixteen percent were opposed to professional hunting, and just over 40 percent of those respondents cited safety as their top concern, while just over 30 percent said it would be too expensive. Twelve percent of respondents said they were undecided on whether to use professional hunters.
Of those who were in favor of the four-poster pesticide program, 60 percent said it was effective, just over 55 percent said it was safe and just over 25 percent said it was cost effective.
Of those who didn’t favor the four-poster, 75 percent said it was ineffective, 55 percent cited environmental concerns and nearly 55 percent said it was too expensive. Twenty percent of respondents were undecided.
The cost of deer damage quantified by respondents was also an eye-opener.
Eighty-five percent of respondents said deer had damaged the vegetation at their houses, and 260 of those respondents provided dollar amounts for the damage, for a total of $847,715, an average of $3,260 per person.
Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they had had a car accident on the island involving a deer. Of those who had had an accident, 360 gave a dollar value to the damage, for a total of $933,626, which breaks down to $2,593 per person.
Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they support increased funding for deer and tick management on the island.
Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty said the town is looking to double funding to incentivize hunting, from $10,000 to $20,000, in the 2018 budget, while the funding for the four-poster program will remain flat.
He urged residents who support the increased funding to attend the town’s budget hearing on Nov. 8.
Mr. Dougherty also said he’s had “promising and encouraging” conversations with state lawmakers about future state funding for deer control on the island, which has in the past been earmarked for the four poster program but may in the future be for general use to control deer and tick populations. He also said he’s interested in learning from Southold Town’s current experiment involving raising quail to eat ticks on town-owned land.
Beau Payne’s full PowerPoint presentation is online below: