New York Governor Kathy Hochul has signed a bill to create a Southold pilot deer management program in the works since the summer of 2022.

The bill enables a pilot program allowing the DEC and Southold Town to allow Certified Nuisance Wildlife Specialists to engage in culling of deer in certain areas within Southold Town where the town has found they “have become a nuisance, destructive to public or private property or a threat to public health or welfare.”

The Certified Wildlife Specialists would be “an employee or contractor for the federal or state government responsible for wildlife management and acting pursuant to a deer management plan,” who has been certified to have attained a minimal level of marksmanship, liability insurance, and adheres to reporting requirements.

An earlier version of the bill that didn’t leave committee in 2022 included a much broader expansions of hunting, established incentives for hunters, extended the January firearm hunting season, allowed the use of crossbows in Southold, eliminated acreage minimums for hunting, regulating the harvesting of bucks, and allowed supervised hunting by 12 and 13 year-olds.

Currently, crossbows are not permitted during the archery season on Long Island from Oct. 1 through Jan. 31, while shotgun season is solely during the month of January here. Rifles are not permitted for deer hunting on Long Island, and currently only youth ages 14 and up can hunt with a firearm here.

The bill signed by the governor Dec. 8 was much narrower in scope, and required the cull permit applications to include the timeframe during which the permit must be used, a site-specific deer management plan and a geographic description of the area, as well as a written contract with Southold Town.

This year’s bill also requires the DEC to prepare a report on the effectiveness of the program for delivery to the governor and the state legislature no later than 30 days after the effective date of the act.

The program would begin on January 1, 2024 and will last for three years.

“Deer play vital roles in the natural and cultural environment of New York. However, the overabundance of deer in many parts of the state is causing increasing problems, including deer-vehicle collisions on roads, deer eating crops in agricultural settings, and the prevalence of tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease,” said Governor Hochul in her approval memo for the bill. “Currently deer population levels in most areas are managed primarily through recreational hunting. Over the years, the Department of Environmental Conservation has been working with stakeholders to find ways to increase the effectiveness of population management strategies in areas with overabundance.”

“I agree with the intention of these bills. As drafted, however, they would create an unnecessary inefficient two-tier permitting process for wildlife management, without an appreciable benefit to the community,” she added. “I have reached an agreement with the Legislature to align the new techniques in these bills with the current permitting and license structure, which would make a significant impact on the effectiveness of the pilot programs.”

Southold Town, which has an average of more than 200 motor vehicle accidents involving deer each year, has long been at the forefront of efforts to control deer population through hunting on the East End, with a well-established town deer management program. Other East End towns have taken other tacks, with varying degrees of success, from Shelter Island’s work to apply pesticides to control the number of ticks carried by deer to East Hampton Village’s attempt to sterilize deer there.

In 2014, Southold was the only town to take advantage of a program spearheaded by the Long Island Farm Bureau to allow USDA Wildlife Services sharpshooters to cull deer there, though farmers throughout the East End did participate on their own land. The program involved baiting deer and waiting for them to arrive at the baiting station, where they were killed. In all, 132 deer were killed in the program on the North Fork, while 60 were killed on the South Fork, far less than the thousands of deer that the many opponents of the program thought would be killed.

“The region’s deer population is a major concern for area farmers and residents alike. The exploding deer population causes millions of dollars in crop loss each year, has led to an increase in motor vehicle accidents and poses health risks to families due to the spread of Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses”, said State Senator Anthony Palumbo of the North Fork, the State Senate sponsor of the bill, after the governor signed the bill. “This new law, which has broad community support, will provide the Town of Southold with the tools it needs to help reduce the deer population. This program will be a benefit to the agricultural community and residents and bring balance to the region’s ecosystem and protect the environment.” 

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

One thought on “Hochul Signs Deer Hunting Pilot Bill for Southold

  1. Thank you Senator Anthony Palumbo and Assemblyman Fred Thiele for sponsoring this crucial bill and getting it passed. We are all suffering from dramatic increases in car collisions, farm and garden damage, forest damage and tick-borne diseases due to an extremely unhealthy deer population explosion. I had babesiosis which I woudn’t wish on anyone. This proram will help our hunters and our town keep our deer population from overrunning us.

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