Prospects of a solution to the problem of what appears to be an exploding deer population here remain uncertain despite the release last month of a management report that was supposed to provide one.
Deer are too many, the report’s authors agreed, citing tick-related diseases as a top concern. Environmentally, they said, deer numbers may have put East Hampton Town’s remaining wild lands at a “tipping point” because of the elimination of the forest understory, an essential habitat for plants and other wildlife. To this, we would add the rapid emergence of a tick-borne red-meat allergy which can have immediate and life-threatening implications.
Property damage, whether when a vehicle strikes one of these sizable animals or when they attack horticultural or farm plantings, has become epidemic as well. High, wire fences around house and field have given some parts of the South Fork an unpleasant, keep-out look.
The problems caused by deer are more or less agreed upon; what to do about them remains unclear. The study’s authors called for a sharp population reduction, presumably through hunting, “as soon as practically possible.” Unfortunately, instead of making specific policy recommendations that could be swiftly acted upon, the report called for a five-year plan before anything was actually done. The report turned out to be little more than an expansion of the ideas contained in a similar document produced by a subcommittee of the town’s Nature Preserve Committee back in January 2011.
More than two years later, officials are still calling for the drafting of a management plan. How much longer will residents have to wait before Town Hall really takes on the deer?