After months of work, a deer-management program is emerging from East Hampton Town Hall. Its preliminary recommendations set a goal of reducing the townwide deer herd by half within five years in order to reach what it calls an “ecologically and culturally sustainable level.”
The draft is the product of a group of residents and public officials, organized by East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, who has honed a knack for getting things done these days. According to preliminary recommendations, reducing the number of deer would be achieved by increasing recreational hunting, “emergency” culling by hired sharpshooters, and attemping nonlethal methods, such as birth control, though the state does not consider that option viable.
For those who have endured a collision when one of these large animals darted in front of their vehicle, suffered from a tick-borne illness, seen their gardens or lawn plantings disappear, or noticed the absence of an understory in the forest, doing something — anything — about deer is long overdue. The draft cites the quadrupling of motor vehicle accidents involving deer in East Hampton Town since 2000 and the skyrocketing of Lyme disease cases, among other illnesses and long-term conditions. Rare wild plants have disappeared as hungry mouths browsed the woods and fields. Birds and animals that depend on woodland shrubs have also been declining.
As a top goal, the committee reached a consensus that the Town of East Hampton must restore “balance and sustainability” where deer are concerned. We could not agree more, and support an all-of-the-above strategy. The town board has been given a strong outline of what must be achieved. Now its members must decide how to proceed.