East Hampton Town was issued a temporary restraining order yesterday barring the town from implementing a contract with the Long Island Farm Bureau and the UDSA to allow USDA sharpshooters to cull the town’s deer herd, said East Hampton Group for Wildlife President Bill Crain Friday afternoon.
Both East Hampton Town and Village announced this afternoon that they’ve decided to not participate in the cull.
Mr. Crain said the Temporary Restraining Order prohibits the cull from going forward until after Feb. 10, when the parties in a lawsuit brought by Mr. Crain’s group and other wildlife advocates will again meet in court. The advocates had named both the town board, the town trustees and East Hampton Village in the suit.
“It appears certain the Town of East Hampton will not be in a position to participate in the Long Island Farm Bureau program this year,” said East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and Councilman Fred Overton, who serves as liaison to the town’s deer management committee, in a memo to reporters Friday afternoon. “However, if participation is open next year and a more complete environmental analysis is completed, the town can reconsider. In the meantime, we recommend the town continue implementing the Town Deer Management Plan.”
In the memo, they pointed out that the response from property owners who want to participate in the cull has been minimal, the town has received correspondence indicating there may be additional litigants looking to sue the town at both the federal and local level, and the town will likely need to prepare an environmental impact statement before going forward with the cull.
The town board will discuss the matter further at their work session this Tuesday.
East Hampton Village Mayor Paul Rickenbach issued a statement Friday afternoon saying “it was the intent and desire of the village to address wildlife management issues with a regional approach, but as surrounding municipalities have not committed to participate, it no longer seems a project the village can tackle on its own. The village remains committed in moving forward in this manner with its local government counterparts.”
Southampton and Riverhead towns are not participating in the cull, and Southold Town has been threatened with lawsuits due to their staunch support for the program.
Protesters took to the streets of East Hampton en masse two weekends ago to argue against the cull.
Mr. Crain said he sees the temporary restraining order as “a significant victory for the deer.”
“I believe the cull will be stopped in the long run, too, because it lacks scientific basis,” he said. “Whereas the Town Board’s deer management plan and the Village Mayor’s comments point to growing deer abundance, the scientific surveys indicate an East Hampton deer population in decline. The cull actually threatens to wipe the population out.”
“In addition, contrary to what the cull’s advocates say, researchers have not found a link between deer populations and Lyme disease because disease-carrying ticks also feed on other animals,” he added. “The cull is based on a false sense of panic and resorts to killing rather than seeking humane ways of co-existing with the deer.”