Editorial: Thumbs up, thumbs down on North Fork deer problem

03/07/2014 6:00 AM |
(Credit: Jim Colligan, file)

(Credit: Jim Colligan, file)

TOWNS OUT IN FRONT

Over the last six months, a plan to hire federal sharpshooters to thin the white-tailed deer herd across the East End has divided many in our communities — and has unexpectedly united hunters with those who hope to protect the deer.

The letters in this newspaper probably illustrate those divisions better than anything else. 

Predictions for the cull were originally expected to result in the death of 2,400 to 3,000 deer on private properties and land belonging to the East End towns and villages. Those estimates have now fallen to 1,000 deer — at the most.

That’s because every municipality except Southold Town has opted not to participate. Despite opponents’ steadfast efforts to stop the cull, Southold officials have held true to what they believe is a viable first step toward getting a regional health and safety problem under control.

Riverhead Town officials, on the other hand, chose not to participate in the cull because they believe their own efforts over the past few years — including an annual program that opens the former Grumman property to hunters — have drastically reduced the herd that had seemed omnipresent along Route 25.

Too often, government is chided for sitting idly by while problems persist; that hasn’t been the case on the North Fork, and local officials deserve recognition.

LIFT THE CULL CURTAIN

This newspaper has supported the sharpshooter program, which officials said began last week in Southold and on several non-town-owned properties in Riverhead.

But it’s also evident that many of the concerns — and some of the controversy — that have arisen in recent weeks could have been addressed long ago if the Long Island Farm Bureau and the state Department of Environmental Conservation had taken more of a leadership role in educating the public.

Instead, officials with both agencies have been unresponsive, or vague in their responses, to questions about the cull from local media, including this newspaper. While it’s understandable that they would not disclose exactly where the sharpshooters are operating — no one needs protesters getting in the way — simple, straightforward questions are going unanswered. For example, how many deer have been taken thus far? Where are the harvested deer being donated? How much longer is the cull expected to last?

If the state and the Long Island Farm Bureau believe this is the right thing to do, then own it; don’t hide.

Get out in front and inform the public you’re trying to protect.