Pesticide used in 4-poster tick-killing, deer-feeding stations now legal on Long Island

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Members of the Shelter Island Deer & Tick Committee with a 4-poster feeding station. Pesticide is applied by rollers on four vertical posts as deer feed on corn contained in buckets between each pair of posts.

After many years of debate, political wrangling and scientific investigation, New York State has joined the rest of the lower 48 in approving for widespread use the permithrin-based pesticide that is applied to the heads and necks of deer as they feed on corn at “4-poster” deer-feeding stations.

The purpose of the device is to kill ticks and reduce the incidence of tick-related illnesses among humans.

The approval limits the pesticide or “tickicide’s” use to Nassau and Suffolk Counties, where Lyme disease and other illnesses associated with tick bites have become endemic. Special permits will still be required to deploy the 4-posters because they violate a state DEC rule that bans the baiting of deer.

The decision is nothing less than momentous to the people — spearheaded largely by Shelter Islanders — who have been lobbying for it for nearly a decade.

It follows a three-year 4-poster test program on Shelter Island and Fire Island conducted by the Cornell Cooperative Extension under a special state permit. Its cost of more than $2 million was funded by the state, county and town as well as private donors. The town continues to deploy 15 4-poster stations under an annual extension of that permit. Local taxpayers pay the $75,000 bill for that. The test program deployed 60 units on Shelter Island.

The three-year test was conducted only after Shelter Island’s Gov. Hugh Carey wrote the sitting governor at the time, George Pataki, to order the DEC as a matter of public health to allow a test to see if 4-posters could lower the tick population. Until then, the DEC in Albany had adamantly opposed the use of 4-posters in New York State even though every other state except Hawaii and Alaksa had no rules against then.

The DEC said that drawing groups of deer to baiting stations might spread chronic wasting disease among the state’s deer herd; it also said that the tickicide deployed by the 4-poster was not registered for use in the state. The state’s hunting lobby bitterly opposed the 4-posters, fearing the tickicide it deployed would taint deer meat.

According to a Cornell report on the test-program that was released last spring, 4-posters were found to be highly effective in killing ticks while introducing no more permethrin into the environment than can be found by testing deer on North Haven, which was used as a control site. There were no 4-posters there and yet trace amounts of permithrin were found in its deer, most likely from the broadcast spraying of private yards and lawns by pest control companies with permithrin-based chemicals.

The DEC’s Vincent Palmer, who oversaw the Shelter Island test program, announced that the state had “registered” the 4-poster tickicide in an email sent to 4-poster stakeholders on Friday.

He reported that the DEC had agreed to register the tickicide on January 9. It was approved “in conjunction with Special Local Need (SLN) Supplemental Labeling that is assigned the following registration number: SLN No. NY-120001. The SLN labeling specifies the restrictions, geographical use limitations, and conditions which must be complied with in order for 4-Poster Tickicide to be legally used in New York State. For example, 4-Poster Tickicide is registered for use only in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and may only be used in conjunction with a valid deer feeding permit issued in accordance with the provisions of 6 NYCRR Part 189.”

He wrote that “details associated with procedures involved with applying for a Part 189 permit authorizing the baiting of deer in connection with the use of 4-Poster Deer Treatment Devices are being developed. The NYSDEC’s Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources will provide details in the very near future.”

Shelter Islander Janalyn Travis-Messer, a real estate agent who was among those who lobbied for the 4-poster program, called the news “very exciting” in an email reply to Mr. Palmer that was copied to all the stakeholders. Her late husband Jim was a town councilman who suffered from Lyme disease.