Call Off the Sharpshooters, Cull Canceled

Deer advocates cheer as town, village back out

    East Hampton’s deer population can breathe easy, for this year anyway. Both Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. said on Friday that the planned thinning of the herd, which had been proposed by the Long Island Farm Bureau in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture, would not take place this winter.

    In a memo to other town board officials last Thursday, Mr. Cantwell said he and Councilman Fred Overton had concluded that “a cull was not something we were going to be able to participate in, in the next couple months.” Among other things, a state-required environmental impact statement cannot be completed in time, he said.

    The memo also cited a “minimal” response from private property owners willing to allow federal sharpshooters on their land. Mr. Overton is the town board liaison to the deer management program.

    “There is a lot of work that has not been done to this point in order for the town to carefully consider signing an agreement,” Mr. Cantwell said Friday. “There are more questions than answers.”

    Whether the board wants to consider participation in the program next year, he added, “is an open question.”

    As a consequence of the town’s withdrawal from the program, the village of Sagaponack, which had passed a resolution to take part in the cull if the towns of East Hampton and Southampton did, has also withdrawn.

    Mayor Rickenbach said in a statement that “it was the intent and desire of the Village to address wildlife management issues with a regional approach, but as surrounding municipalities have not committed to participate it no longer seems a project the village can tackle on its own.”

    Also on Friday, in what opponents called a significant victory, Judge Andrew G. Tarantino Jr. issued a temporary restraining order in State Supreme Court in Riverhead preventing the town and village, and the town trustees, from engaging in the planned cull. The two sides were to have returned to court next  week, but that is now apparently moot.

    Fifteen individuals, along with the East Hampton Group for Wildlife and the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Center of the Hamptons, all represented by the New York law firm Devereaux, Baumgarten, filed the lawsuit against the town, village, and trustees last month. The suit followed the previous town board’s November vote authorizing a contract with the farm bureau and the Department of Agriculture for an organized cull. East Hampton Village okayed the plan in December.

    Opposition erupted soon afterward. Opponents, led by Bill Crain of the wildlife group and Ron Delsener, a concert promoter and animal activist who has a house in East Hampton, drew some 250 people to a rally at Hook Mill on Jan. 18.

    Proponents of the cull argued that Lyme and other diseases and deer-vehicle collisions constitute a public health emergency. The destruction of residents’ landscaping and subsequent proliferation of deer fencing have also been cited.

    Opponents disputed a statistical relationship between Lyme disease and the size of the herd, given that the primary vector, ticks, feed on many animals. They also advocate the use of deer-resistant landscaping and slow driving to reduce deer-vehicle collisions.

    On Monday, Mr. Delsener called Supervisor Cantwell “the best person we’ve had in this town in years. I think he’s a very rational person, and he listens to people.”