01/12/14 10:00am
01/12/2014 10:00 AM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO  |

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO |  The rise in deer population has become one of the biggest concerns for North Fork residents.

As a lifelong resident of the North Fork, I have witnessed the explosion of the deer population.

When I was growing up, it was rare to find deer tracks in fields or in the woods, but now it’s common to come across several deer in one’s backyard. Historically, populations of deer were dramatically lower than they are today, and we know that without natural predators and with plentiful food sources, deer populations can double in two to three years.

The agricultural industry, a critical part of the East End economy, has experienced millions of dollars of crop loss due to white-tailed deer. Farmers have spent thousands of dollars on deer fencing to protect crops; this is an expense most cannot afford. As a fourth generation farmer, I understand this all too well.

As a Suffolk County Legislator and a former Southold Town Councilman, I have spoken to hundreds of constituents whose lives have been seriously impacted by deer, whether it is by a tick-borne illness or a car accident or, as in some cases, both. I have walked through many acres of preserved open spaces and parks in my district and seen firsthand the destruction deer have done to the natural environment.

All efforts must be made to bring the population of white-tailed deer, which has reached crisis proportions in eastern Suffolk County, down to sustainable levels. The USDA sharpshooter program is one tool that can be employed to help achieve this goal and, at least in Southold Town, the community will utilize the program to decrease the herd size and protect human health, biodiversity and property.

This does not mean that there is unanimous support for culling the herd or that no controversy surrounds the program, but if the alternatives are considered objectively, the logical conclusion is that we need to act.

Tick-borne illnesses have cost millions of dollars in treatment and lost work and caused much pain and suffering. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported almost 3,000 cases of Lyme disease in New York State in 2012, but it is believed the actual number is much greater due to misdiagnosis, inconclusive testing and underreporting. New York State has one of the highest incidences of tick-borne illnesses in the country and Suffolk County has one of the highest infection rates in the state.

Lyme disease is not the only tick-borne illness associated with deer. Others, such as Babesiosis, can be particularly harmful to people with compromised immune systems. In addition, tick-borne disorders unfamiliar to scientists are emerging, such as a potentially life-threatening red meat allergy that develops in some people bitten by lone star ticks.

The Suffolk County Tick Management Task Force concluded that “the issue of tick-borne disease is inextricably linked to deer overpopulation … Any strategy for tick control must reduce the number of deer and/or the number of ticks on deer to have any chance of success.”

Unchecked growth of the white-tailed deer population has devastated the natural environment and this will continue until we act to reduce the population to a sustainable level.

Conservationists and those who advocate for the protection of wildlife alike should support policies that cull the herd to protect habitat and biodiversity. In many areas deer have destroyed the woodland understory. Invasive plant species, like mile-a-minute vine, have taken over because beneficial native plants have been gobbled up by deer.

The insects, birds and other animals these native plants and ecosystems support are now threatened and have decreased in numbers. Some forests are so stripped they may not be able to regenerate.

The problems caused by white-tailed deer overpopulation are multi-faceted and costly. As a community, we need to make the hard choices and manage the herd to lessen the occurrence of disease, habitat destruction and property loss.

If you are concerned about the well-being of individual deer, perhaps you should stop driving, because hundreds are killed or maimed in car accidents yearly. It is not a pretty sight to see an animal writhing in pain after being hit but not killed.

The USDA program is conducted safely, professionally and humanely. The meat harvested is a good source of protein and will not go to waste but will be donated to food pantries and homeless shelters feeding many people in need on Long Island.

Al Krupski is a Suffolk County legislator whose district encompasses the North Fork. He lives in Cutchogue.

12/16/13 10:30am
12/16/2013 10:30 AM
JIM COLLIGAN FILE PHOTO

JIM COLLIGAN FILE PHOTO

A lottery for Riverhead Town residents and property owners to hunt on town-owned land in Calverton is scheduled for tonight, Monday, in Town Hall.

The annual hunt during the special firearms season, for shotguns and muzzleloaders, runs from Jan. 6 through Jan. 31, on weekdays.

Riverhead officials started opening up lands at Enterprise Park at Calverton a few years ago to thin the herd, though this season, three-day slots that hunters had been given last year will be reduced to two-day openings.

The lottery will take place at 7 p.m. in Town Hall at 210 Howell Avenue. Applicants must be in attendance to participate, and proper ID and hunting license must be presented at the time of the lottery.

Interested hunters can contact Councilman George Gabrielsen at 727-3200, Ext. 223, for more information.

12/12/13 7:00am
12/12/2013 7:00 AM
JIM COLLIGAN FILE PHOTO

JIM COLLIGAN FILE PHOTO

To the editor:

It was appalling to learn that a tentative plan is in place to kill thousands of deer across Brookhaven and the East End using trained snipers to manage the growing population.

The plan, which would also include bow hunters to come within 150 feet of private residences rather than the current regulation of 500 feet, is extremely dangerous and perhaps deadly.

Rather than create an inhumane agenda to deal with the growing deer population, why were methods not in place all along to inhibit the expansion of this docile species across eastern Long Island?

Deer culling, the management of a deer population in a certain area, using birth control vaccines has been successful in national parks for years. Instead, we choose to have hunters hanging from trees in the dark targeting innocent animals. Rather than tout this plan, we should be ashamed to even present it.

Jason Hill, Ridge

12/11/13 4:00pm
12/11/2013 4:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Riverhead Town Board is considering allowing deer hunting at EPCAL

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Riverhead Town Board is considering allowing deer hunting at EPCAL

A lottery for Riverhead residents and landowners to hunt on town-owned land in Calverton will be held next Monday in town hall.

The annual hunt during the special firearms season, for shotgun and muzzleloaders, is open from Jan. 6 through Jan. 31, on weekdays. Riverhead officials started opening up lands at Enterprise Park at Calverton a few years ago to thin the herd, though this season, three-day slots that hunters had been given last year will be reduced to two-day openings.

The lottery will take place at 7 p.m. in town hall. Applicants must be in attendance in order to participate, and proper ID and hunting license must be presented at the time of the lottery.

For more information, interested hunters can contact Councilman George Gabrielsen at 727-3200, ext. 223.

12/05/13 12:00pm
12/05/2013 12:00 PM
JIM COLLIGAN FILE PHOTO

JIM COLLIGAN FILE PHOTO

North Fork legislators are lobbying the chair of the state’s Environmental Conservation Committee to pass a bill that would have given local municipalities on the East End the authority to loosen some restrictions on deer hunting had it not been stalled in the lower house of the state Legislature last year.

In a letter addressed to state Assemblyman Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski — the initial author of the letter, which was written late last month — said “the overpopulation of white-tailed deer is a crisis which has plagued the East End of Long Island for many years, negatively impacting not only human health, but water quality, biodiversity, private property, the economy and the agricultural industry.”

The four-page letter — supported so far by Southold Town, the Village of Greenport and groups including the North Fork Environmental Council, North Fork Audubon Society and North Fork Deer Management Alliance — calls upon Mr. Sweeney to move the bill out of the committee it never left last year, so the entire Assembly can vote on it. The state Senate passed the bill, 59-2, in May.

Steven Liss, a legislative aide to Mr. Sweeney, said in a phone conversation that officials with the Department of Environmental Conservation — which regulates hunting in New York State — expressed concern about granting towns and villages the option to loosen state regulations. State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said he recalled no such opposition while passing the bill last year. A DEC spokesperson said the authority does not comment on pending legislation.

Mr. Liss said that if the deer “crisis” is as severe as some say it is, measures more drastic than deregulating hunting laws will be needed to reduce the herd. He pointed to a plan which Southold Town will be implementing, made possible through a Long Island Farm Bureau grant, that involves hiring United States Department of Agriculture sharpshooters to use measures above and beyond state law <\h>— including baiting and hunting at night <\h>— to cut down drastically the number of deer in the area. Riverhead officials have expressed skepticism to this plan, however, noting that opening more opportunities to hunters would be more preferable than spending money to bring in hunters from outside the area.

“If we’re talking about opening up hunting opportunities, we support that,” Mr. Liss said. “But if we’re talking about culling the herd down to a manageable level, that’s a different conversation.”

The amendments to the state hunting law proposed by Assemblyman Fred Thiele last year would have given the five East End towns the ability to reduce bowhunting setbacks down to 150 feet, from the current state regulations of 500 feet. In addition, opening up a special firearms hunting season for the entire month of January was proposed; currently, only weekdays are allowed. These measures, as well as a couple of other changes offered by Mr. Thiele, were suggested in a deer management plan published by the DEC in October 2011.

In September, a forum hosted by the town on the topic of culling the herd brought out over 300 residents interested in the issue. Southold Supervisor Scott Russell called the problem of deer overpopulation a “public health crisis” at the time.

Because of opposition to reducing setbacks he says Mr. Sweeney has expressed, Mr. Thiele — who represents the South Fork and Shelter Island — said in a Tuesday interview that he plans submitting two bills related to deer management next month when the Assembly returns to Albany. One, he said, would expand the opportunity for localities statewide to reduce their setbacks and the other deals with all the other elements of the original bill.

While he sees no single solution to the deer problem in the immediate future, Mr. Thiele said it’s a step in the right direction.

“All we are trying to do is follow the deer management plan,” he said. “To use a bad pun, no silver bullet is going to solve this issue. But this is one way to work toward that. Every little bit counts.”

The letter to Mr. Sweeney, chair of the Environmental Conservation Committee since 2007, goes beyond the previously proposed amendments to state law, proposing the use of baits as well as trapping and humane euthanasia of deer.

“Every humane tool must be utilized to get our deer population down to reasonable levels as soon as possible,” the letter states.

While the future of the bill in the Assembly remains unclear, Mr. LaValle said he should have no problem passing the new bill through the state Senate next year.

11/27/13 2:00pm
11/27/2013 2:00 PM
Instagram photo, courtesy Department Environmental Conservation

DEC COURTESY INSTAGRAM PHOTO | This photo posted to Instagram was taken after the four men allegedly captured the deer, DEC officials said. One of the men later said the charges were exaggerated.

The four local men accused of snapping photos with a pair of deer they pursued and captured before putting them online earlier this month were each offered a reduced fine in exchange for community service Wednesday morning.

The plea deal came during an appearance in Riverhead Town court for the four defendants: 18-year-old George Salzmann of Calverton, 19-year-old Conor Lingerfelt of Jamesport, 20-year-old Joseph Sacchitello of Riverhead and 20-year-old  Anthony Infantolino of Wading River.

All were offered 20 hours of community service per ticket in exchange for reducing the maximum $250 fine to $100 per citation, prosecutors said in court. If they take the deal, the men would also have to pay a $75 surcharge.

The four were not required to plead in court, and would get the benefits of the deal if they complete the community service before their next court appearances in January. Court officials said one of the four might decide not to take the offer, and would have to pay the full fine if found guilty.

Department of Environmental Conservation officials said they were tipped off on Halloween when someone sent the two pictures to them, one of which apparently showed the four men smiling while one held the deer and another held a can of beer in the air.

The pictures had been posted on Instagram, a social media photo sharing website.

Instagram photo, courtesy Department Environmental Conservation

DEC COURTESY INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Authorities said the Mr. Salzmann and Mr. Lingerfelt caught the first deer while it was trapped inside a fence.

The other deer, officials said, was caught after it was chased down on Hulse Landing Road in Wading River and trapped between the four men’s vehicle and a fence. Authorities said both deer were apparently brought back to Mr. Infantolino’s house in Wading River and were later released unharmed.

The four men were issued citations for illegal take and pursuit of protected wildlife. Officials said Mr. Salzmann was given three tickets — two for illegally taking and pursuing deer, and one more for having an untagged deer head at his home.

Mr. Lingerfelt was given two citations for illegally taking and pursuing deer. He is spotted in both photos with Mr. Salzmann, officials said. Mr. Sacchitello and Mr. Infantolino, 20, of Wading River, were each charged once.

DEC officials found the four men at Bean & Bagel on Route 25 in Calverton the next day and cited them for the incident.

“Although these young men may have thought their actions were harmless and trivial, serious consequences can occur due to these types of actions,” said DEC Regional Director Peter Scully earlier this month.

But one of the men disputed the DEC’s claims. Mr. Salzmann told the News-Review that the four hadn’t trapped the deer, but instead were caring for it after they found it injured on the side of the road.

“I go out and I try to do the right thing and it came back to bite me in the butt,” he said on Nov. 13. He said he regretted taking the photo with alcohol, but denied any of the four were intoxicated and said they did the right thing.

“The photo that was taken with the beer was probably not the best photo, but the photo of us holding it and smiling – I don’t see any harm in that,” Mr. Salzmann said.

11/25/13 10:00am
11/25/2013 10:00 AM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Southold Supervisor Scott Russell addresses the crowd at Saturday's deer management meeting in Orient.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Southold Supervisor Scott Russell addresses the crowd at Saturday’s deer management meeting in Orient.

A sharpshooting program is in the works to cull the North Fork’s rising deer population, town officials and volunteers said at a deer management forum in Orient Saturday morning.

Don Stewart with the North Fork Deer Management Alliance volunteer group said he is hopeful the program — which uses teams of skilled marksmen to eliminate dozens of deer at a time — will begin next month.

The sharp shooter program is run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services department, and will be paid for in part by a $200,000 grant secured by the Long Island Farm Bureau. The five East End Towns will have an opportunity to pay their own funds into the program, Mr. Stewart said.

About 50 people attended the forum held at Poquatuck Hall in Orient, the second Town meeting on deer control this fall after more than 200 people crowded into a forum in Peconic in September.

By aggressively cutting down the deer population, Mr. Stewart said, the North Fork will see less environmental damage from deer grazing, fewer tick-borne illnesses and will reduce deer-related car accidents.

While hunting by locals is a valuable part of deer management, it would not cause the “radical reduction” necessary on its own to bring the deer to manageable levels, Mr. Stewart said.

Other so-called humane approaches, like sterilization or contraception techniques, are more complex than they seem and would not do enough to limit the deer population, he added.

“At best its only going to keep an unacceptably high level of deer from expanding further,” Mr. Stewart said. “You’re not going to bring these levels down to where you need it.”

Having sharpshooters pick off dozens of deer seems cruel, he said, but it’s better than having hunters who might miss their shots do the bulk of the culling.

“You [won't] have animals that are wounded walking around the countryside,” he said.

The Town of Southold has taken steps to make it easier for hunters to tag deer, like waiving fees on carcasses and opening up town land to hunters. But town officials said private land owners need to open up their properties to hunters. Otherwise the deer will simply move to safer areas and continue to reproduce.

Supervisor Scott Russell had said state regulations on hunting have limited the town’s efforts so far. Hunters are not allowed to hunt within 500 feet of structures, including sheds.

Mr. Russell said the law is designed for rural areas like upstate New York, but doesn’t account for the denser population on the North Fork.

Speaker Sherry Thomas said the deer population will reach catastrophic levels soon if proactive steps are not taken. While deer management officials say there should be no more than 15 deer per square mile, the North Fork has about 65 per square mile, she said.

If nothing is done to stop the deer population explosion, there could be an estimated 400 deer per square mile in the next 10 years, Ms. Thomas said.

“It’s only going to go from unsustainable to disastrous,” she said.

psquire@timesreview.com

11/13/13 5:30pm
11/13/2013 5:30 PM

One of the four local men citied by the Department of Environmental Conservation for illegally taking and pursuing wildlife and posting the evidence online is speaking out after he says officers have exaggerated the circumstances behind the incidents.

George Salzmann

George Salzmann

Eighteen-year-old George Salzmann of Calverton said he and his friends were trying to help the two deer they found while driving home from a friend’s house in Wading River about 2 a.m. on Oct. 27.

The first deer was found trapped inside a fence near Grumman Memorial Park when Mr. Salzmann said he found and quickly released the animal. The other, he said, was found running parallel to the car on Hulse Landing Road with a bloody face.

Noticing the deer’s wound, Mr. Salzmann said they captured the animal to clean up its face. He chose not to call DEC to handle the situation because of the late hour, he said.

His account differs from the DEC statement that said the men trapped and wrangled the deer between the vehicle and the fence in order to hop out and catch it.

“They said we chased down the deer and cornered into the fence which is false,” Mr. Salzmann said to the Riverhead News-Review in a phone interview Wednesday. “We pulled one of the deer out and we were trying to help it. I go out and I try to do the right thing and it came back to bite me in the butt.”

The animals were released unharmed, according to DEC.

Officials said that on Halloween, they were forwarded pictures from the two separate incidents, one of which included one of the men drinking a Natural Ice beer. The following day, Mr. Salzmann said he and his friends were approached by Environmental Conservation Officers at Bean & Bagel, a bagel shop on Route 25 in Calverton.

While remorseful for taking photos with alcohol, Mr. Salzmann believes the group did the right thing for the deer.

“The photo that was taken with the beer was probably not the best photo, but the photo of us holding it and smiling – I don’t see any harm in that,” Mr. Salzmann said. “We didn’t have to bring it inside. It was just bleeding and we figured we’d clean it up and give it water.”

Mr. Salzmann said he and his friends were not intoxicated at the time of the incident.

Instagram photo courtesy of the Department of Environmental Conservation

The four men – ranging from ages 18 to 20 – were issued citations for illegal take and pursuit of protected wildlife. Officials said Mr. Salzmann, seen holding the deer in both photos, was given three tickets — two for illegally taking and pursuing deer, and one more for having an untagged deer head at his home.

Mr. Salzmann said that the untagged deer found on his property was the fault of Riverhead Police, and plans to fight that ticket.

“Riverhead Police Department was supposed to issue me a tag for a dead deer that was on the side of the road and that I took to my home, they said that the Ridge officer – where DEC is located – was unavailable, and the cop followed me home so I wouldn’t get in trouble from the DEC,” Mr. Salzmann said. “For that ticket, I blame the police department for not doing their job and not making out a deer report and issuing me a tag.”

Conor Lingerfelt, 19, of Jamesport, was given two citations for illegally taking and pursuing deer. He is spotted in both photos with Mr. Salzmann, officials said. Joseph Sacchitello, 20, of Riverhead, and Anthony Infantolino, 20, of Wading River, were each charged once. DEC officials said one of the photos has all four individuals with one stressed deer.

“Although these young men may have thought their actions were harmless and trivial, serious consequences can occur due to these types of actions,” said DEC Regional Director Peter Scully. “Wildlife can be dangerous and unpredictable, and DEC’s environmental conservation offices deserve recognition for their successful pursuit of this case.”

The four men are due in Riverhead justice court on Nov. 27. Each offense carries a $250 fine.

Mr. Salzmann said there is no danger of him losing his hunting license.