Culling Village Deer May Be Ahead

The East Hampton Village Board has moved closer in recent weeks to allowing highly managed hunting as a means of reducing the number of deer. This is a brave position. Opponents of deer hunts, while perhaps few in number, are vocal and unyielding. 

Hunting is the only population-control method consistently shown to work, however, and it has been used as an environmental management tool for decades. Once skittish and rarely seen, over recent years deer have come out of the woods to live among us. Their proximity to populated areas has put them into harm's way, most notably the unknown but very high number killed and injured while crossing roads. 

Police are frequently called now to dispatch deer that are unable to move but still alive after striking a vehicle. Drivers must deal with the costs and their insurance companies, as well as painful emotions, often among young passengers, that linger after such an incident. Then there are the deer that get tangled in fences or, now, end up trapped in open, abandoned foundations or at houses under construction. 

Though their fans argue against a correlation, tick-borne illness has spiked here along with the deer. Among the newer problems is a life-threatening allergy to red meat caused by the bite of the lone star tick. This was all but unknown until relatively recently. Deer have also altered the natural environment, removing the forest understory and preventing seedlings, other than those they find distasteful, from growing. Once upon a time, it was impossible to see more than a few yards into the woods; now the nearly revealed topography interrupts the view. Anyone who tells you otherwise just isn't paying attention.

Shooting wildlife is unthinkable for some. We get that. However, with the situation out of balance as it is, killing, or culling as the current euphemism goes, seems inevitable. Humans have kicked the world out of balance and, unfortunately, it falls to us to do what we can to restore and maintain natural habitats, not just for one charismatic animal, but for all species. Many village residents agree; a recent mailed survey found that an overwhelming majority was okay with hunting as a control method.

Make no mistake, East Hampton's burgeoning deer population has come at a cost. As much as we enjoy seeing deer, their presence on our lawns or dead and injured on the side of our roads is an obvious indication that something is very wrong. It is good that the East Hampton Village Board is willing to admit this and consider all options.