Town Board approves deer hunting at EPCAL

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

The Riverhead Town Board this week unanimously approved a monthlong deer hunt to be held at the massive Enterprise Park at Calverton property.

The hunt by shotgun will take place on wooded sections of the town-owned land from Jan. 3 to Jan. 31.

Town officials have scheduled a lottery event to be held at 5:30 p.m. in Town Hall on Monday, Dec. 27, to determine who gets to hunt.

There will be eight separate areas of about 100 acres each, and three hunters will be allowed in each area per day. Each hunter chosen will be given a two-day pass.

Only town residents are eligible, according to Councilman George Gabrielsen, and those interested should show up at the lottery event with either a tax bill or a driver’s license to show proof of residency. A valid New York State deer hunting license also is required.

The town last allowed deer hunting in EPCAL in 2000 to thin out a growing deer population. About a week into that hunt, which only allowed bow hunting, about 25 members of the Huntington-based Animal Defense League began protesting on the property and vandals destroyed about a quarter mile of the fence surrounding EPCAL.

The demonstrators said the hunt was inhumane because it was “canned,” in that deer had no chance of escaping because of the fence. The protesters denied responsibility for vandalizing the fence, which town officials said cost $30,000 to replace.

Mr. Gabrielsen brought up the deer hunt proposal at last Thursday’s Town Board work session, outlining several woodland areas at EPCAL where hunting could be permitted safely. He presented a set of guidelines for hunters to follow, such as allowing only three hunters in each area, requiring them to stay 500 feet from roadways and prohibiting littering.

“This is really a conservation tool,” said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter.

The growing deer population has become a problem across the East End, with neighboring Southold Town having allowed deer hunting without any major opposition, he noted.

“I think people understand we have a major problem,” Mr. Walter said.

“They’re hurting the farmers,” Councilman John Dunleavy added. “They’re eating their plants.”

Tom Gabrielsen, the councilman’s brother and a member of the committee formed to establish the hunt, said that when deer herds get too big, the individual deer tend to become malnourished. Mr. Gabrielsen said people who shoot a deer but don’t want to eat it can donate it to the Suffolk County Food Bank program for processing and delivery to the needy.

Call Town Hall at 727-3200 for more information.

[email protected]

Looking to comment on this article? Send us a letter to the editor instead.