There are too many deer here. They are a prime host for ticks that carry serious diseases, destroy natural and landscaped vegetation and threaten human lives and property when they cross roads and highways.
With wolves, coyotes and rifle hunting all things of the past on Long Island, deer have no predators and so they thrive here, their population exploding. The East End’s combination of woods, farmland, open space and expansive suburban properties — with their landscaping and gardens — is the perfect environment for them, with lots of browsing territory and yet plenty of copses and woods nearby to which to retreat.
Animals in the wild endure harsh realities. Imminent violence and death are part of their lives. Contrary to the belief that humans have invaded the natural deer habitat — creating conflict by living where deer came first — the fact is humans have brought deer back by creating a cushy and expanding habitat for them.
Things are out of whack. Contraception won’t restore balance. It has remained a cumbersome, impractical and expensive way to limit large deer populations.
It’s good news that the Riverhead Town Board has voted to open up the Enterprise Park at Calverton to shotgun hunters throughout January and will encourage hunters to donate venison to local food pantries. But EPCAL is just one place deer are found. The herd moves daily throughout Riverhead and the rest of the region.
Riverhead and surrounding towns need more hunters and more lands for them to hunt all winter. For bow hunting, state rules allow for it now. No special permits or programs are necessary. The village of North Haven on the South Fork launched a bow hunt that began more than a decade ago. The hunt has reduced a deer herd of about 900 to 100.
By recruiting homeowners and farmland owners, and coordinating access to their properties for more qualified hunters, Riverhead could help make a proportional dent in its deer population over time. Many farmers, for example, are already allowing bow hunters onto their properties. Perhaps other property owners would do it, too, as a civic duty, if they understood the benefits.