East End deer in the snow | Photo Courtesy of Romaine Gordon for East Hampton Group for Wildlife
East End deer in the snow | Photo Courtesy of Romaine Gordon for East Hampton Group for Wildlife

With just weeks left before the Long Island Farm Bureau plans to hire USDA sharpshooters to cull the East End’s deer herd, opposition to the program is continuing to grow.

Nowhere is the malcontentment more palpable than in East Hampton, where deer lovers are staging a march and rally next Saturday in opposition to the cull.

East Hampton Group for Wildlife President Bill Crain, an animal rights activist who has spent years protesting deer hunting in East Hampton, is one of the organizers of the rally, and his group, The Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center and 14 other individuals filed suit against East Hampton Town and East Hampton Village on Dec. 20 of last year, requesting that the hunt be cancelled.

Mr. Crain said Wednesday that East Hampton’s arial survey of the deer population last year showed there were only 877 deer in the town, down from 3,293 counted in a ground survey in 2006.

“A cull would threaten to wipe out the entire population,” he said. “There’s no scientific basis for a cull.”

“It’s a nightmare for the deer,” he added. “They’re going after females. It will leave a lot of orphans.”

More than 10,000 people have already signed a change.org petition asking the towns to not participate in the hunt.

Though the petition states the farm bureau plans to slaughter 5,000 deer, Farm Bureau Executive Director Joe Gergela said this Friday he believes they will only be able to kill 1,000 to 1,500 animals. He said the state DEC estimates there are between 27,000 and 30,000 deer on the East End.

“That’s all the money we have is going to do,” he said, adding that the farm bureau has to pay to have the deer butchered and delivered to food pantries.

“It’s a tough issue,” he said. “There’s a vocal minority who are opposed, but they’re mostly out-of-towners, not locals. I don’t think anybody in their right mind doesn’t think they’re beautiful animals. There are just too many of them. They’re causing ecological damage, destroying habitat of native bird species. It’s an ecological imbalance. We’re not doing this to be cruel.”

The three former members of the East Hampton Town Board who left office at the end of 2013 had been in favor of the hunt, but new board members sworn in last week haven’t yet made their stances known.

At a work session Tuesday, new Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell added an amendment to a resolution authorizing the town to hire outside legal counsel to defend the case that would cap the amount of money spent at $7,500.

Mr. Cantwell also passed out copies of a supporting resolution making its way around the East End for a proposed state law that would grant individual towns the right to allow bowhunting within 150 feet of a house. Currently, the state DEC does not allow bowhunting within 500 feet of a house. Southold Town, which is actively supporting both the cull and the loosened bowhunting restrictions, has already sent a letter to the state supporting the bill.

Mr Cantwell told his board “at some point we can discuss this” as he handed out the resolution.

In Southold Town, where Lyme Disease victims have told horror stories at numerous public meetings on what to do about the deer population, leaders enthusiastically signed on to the Farm Bureau’s plan when it was first announced. Riverhead has opted out of the cull, and Mr. Gergela said he believes Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst would like to avoid discussions. He said he’s currently in discussions with Sagaponack Village abut having USDA hunters work there.

Southold is holding a public information session on the culling program on Jan. 16 at 6 p.m. at the Southold Recreation Center. Martin Lowney, New York State Director of the USDA Wildlife Services, will discuss the scope and anticipated outcomes of the project.

Mr. Crain said he is skeptical of the implied correlation between the deer population and the prevalence of Lyme Disease, which is carried by deer ticks, on the East End.

“If you remove the deer, the ticks will start off on white-footed mice, raccoons, possums and dogs,” he said. “It should really be called the white-footed mouse tick but people never see white-footed mice. They hide well.”

Mr. Crain added that the DEC’s newly re-established turkey hunting program is a detriment to the control of Lyme Disease.

“We need to stop hunting turkeys. They’re the main predators of ticks,” he said. “The natural enemy of Lyme Disease is the turkey.”

Mr. Gergela agreed that other animals serve as hosts for ticks, but said “the deer are carriers. They’re huge mammals and their territory is large. They’re moving ticks around to other animals.”

The “No Cull” rally begins at the Hook Mill at the corner of North Main Street and Main Street at 1 p.m. on Jan. 18, after which protestors will walk on the sidewalk west to Newtown Lane, ending in another rally at Herrick Park. Mr. Crain said Babette’s Restaurant, a vegetarian restaurant across the street from the park, is offering hot tea and soup to protestors after the demonstration.

Mr. Gergela said he believes the USDA hunting will begin in late February or early March.


Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

7 thoughts on “Deer lovers are getting organized in anticipation of USDA hunt

  1. Killing deer is not the solution! There’s a misconception that when deer are killed, black-legged ticks (NOT deer ticks) will also die. Ticks will merely leave the cold carcasses and take up residence on other deer and mammals. There’s also a misconception, based on lies, that larger numbers of deer are responsible for more cases of Lyme disease! By browsing, and removing undergrowth, deer are actually decreasing tick habitat. In areas with wide-spread hunting, deer can end up infested with twice as many ticks! The only solution is to get rid of ticks by using area sprays, Damminix Tubes (one can make one’s own), the Four-Posters ad stop killing deer. On islands where deer have been exterminated, Lyme disease still exits because black-legged ticks can get their “last blood meal” from any mid-sized mammals.
    Deer have been regulating their own numbers on available browse for thousands of years, not exceeding the carrying capacity, without human intervention. Around the turn of the previous century, they were commercially hunted almost to extinction, then brought back by states through game management. They have been managed for MSY (Maximum Sustained Yield) since then, always making sure that they would rebound to high numbers required to satisfy hunters and to get residents upset by high numbers, leading to a symbiotic relationship.

  2. Several universities have done studies to prove that hunting
    serves to increase the herd. If moral or financial reasons aren’t
    enough, there is the fact that hunting simply does not work as a
    sustainable solution to reduce or even control the deer population
    due to the principal of reproductive rebound. According to many
    documented studies, deer conceive multiple embryos, but the
    number of fawns born is directly related to nutrition and herd
    density. When herd density is temporarily reduced through hunting,
    there is reduced competition for food and the number of twins and
    triplets born actually increases.
    This is called Reproductive Rebound/Compensatory Rebound.
    According to big-game texts, “Harvesting . . . gets the population
    into its most productive range . . . this ensures that many animals
    will be produced.”

  3. Those bloodthirsty and irrational people are completely off their rockers! To kill that many deer when it’s not even certain that they exist, could indeed wipe out most of them, and yes, would definitely leave not only orphans, but kill pregnant does – real bloodshed! Will they, as is usually required in a final deer report, ascertain how many fetuses, what ages, were removed from the dead does? I’m so sick of hearing unwarranted so-called horror stories about Lyme disease! I agree with the first comment about the correlation between deer numbers and Lyme disease incidents – it has nothing to do with it! I read about two counties in CT: Fairfield County has more deer per sq/mi than Windham County with fewer deer – guess who has more cases proportionately (per 100,000)? Windham County!

  4. Children should not be taught to kill for fun or as a way to solve
    a “problem.” Towns should convey a message to the children that
    killing is NOT the way to solve problems!!! That would be one very
    interesting Violence Prevention Method. It would encourage
    children to stop killing each other.

    1. What a fantastic comment, Barbara! I agree, the killing agenda in a country that believes that it’s the only solution to any problem definitely must be confusing to children, sending conflicting messages! Wouldn’t it be refreshing if this town would call off the slaughter and send a strong message that killing is NOT a solution, that non-lethal alternatives will be considered, pending whether there really exists a problem!

  5. I am ashamed to say I live on the east end if this kind of expedient violence is our only solution to an alleged situation. There are ways to live here with the creatures that make their home here as well. This is another indication of considering us as rulers of the universe. And we really wonder why Mother Nature has shown herself as a vengeful bitch in the form of natural disasters?

    1. Sharon, you hit the nail on the head! Isn’t there a saying about when being a hammer, everything is a nail? To those with weapons, everything needs to be shot!

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