Letters to the Editor: Deer 09.14.17

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I’m a Hamptons Driver

(To the tune of 

“I’m A Good Ole Rebel”)

Oh, I’m a Hamptons driver,
Now that’s just what I am,
For bucks and does and fawns,
I do not give a damn.
I’m glad I run ’em over,
I’m sad it’s one by one
I ain’t asked any thanks for all that I have done.
I hates the white-tailed deer and everything they do.
I hates the nature lovers who stopped the cullin’, too.
I hates environmentalists, they never do no good.
I hates the friggin’ deer, I fought ’em all I could.


I’ve hunted deer out here,
For ten years, thereabout.
Got Rocky Mountain Fever,
And Lyme when I went out.
I catched Babesiosis
A-hunting in the Springs,
But I killed ten pregnant does
And I ate the creepy things.
Two-hundred-fifty run down
Is stiff beside the road.
We got two-hundred-fifty,
With all their viral load,
Bounced ‘em off our bumpers
And all the rest we shot.
I wish there were two thousand
Instead of what we got.


I can’t climb in my old truck
And mow ’em down no more
But I ain’t gonna love ’em
Now that is certain sure.
And I don’t want no thanks
For what I was and am
I won’t wear Greenpeace panties
And I do not give a damn.


Oh, I’m a Hamptons driver,
Now that’s just what I am,
For bucks and does and fawns,
I do not give a damn.
I’m glad I slammed into ’em,
Too bad just one by one.
I ain’t asked any thanks for all that I have done.
I ain’t asked any thanks for all that I have done.


Nonlethal Methods

East Hampton

September 11, 2017

To the Editor,

Candidates beware! Hunting is in major decline, as reported in a recent United States Fish and Wildlife Service survey, “Findings Indicate Major Fall-Off of Hunter Participation Numbers,” and yet, East Hampton Town Board members have continued to open more and more of “our” land to vested interests, for the purpose of killing even more wildlife, with the added risk of death or injury to innocent victims and disruption to the lives of taxpaying residents.

It’s pretty clear that the public has been handed barrels-full of distortions and outright lies by these vested interests for so many years that some no longer question it (“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” — Joseph Goebbels), starting with overpopulation claims, based on anecdotal accounts, but without adequate scientific research or statistical evidence to back it up or prove it; culling needed to reduce numbers, while refusing to investigate and consider nonlethal alternatives to reduce population, if even necessary; public land is handed over, opened to hunters, primarily for the slaughter of deer, without consent or approval by the majority of taxpayers, homeowners, or stakeholders in East Hampton.

The deer management committee is a farce: biased and unbalanced. A majority favoring hunting and not representative of the community at large. It includes voting members representing state agencies, profiting from hunting licenses, who should not even be allowed to partake in any decisions concerning deer, let alone serve as members of a local committee.

Intentional scare tactics used by the town, in addition to ignoring policies and regulations that further instill fear: questionable signs placed around town with numbers of vehicle-deer collisions to drum up support for an agenda favoring the ongoing slaughter of deer and increased hunting season. 

Public interest is generally ignored and ill-served, e.g.: greater danger posed by a greatly reduced distance from inhabited and frequented areas from the killing fields, fear of hiking on trails in or close to hunting areas, and disturbing and upsetting constant noise from rifles. 

Deer continue to be singled out as the cause of Lyme disease, demonized as carriers of ticks, when the white-footed mouse is the primary vector, along with other rodents, birds, squirrels. 

Venison donated to food pantries or used as food source by hunters, appears to be exaggerated at best. The East Hampton senior center, when asked about donations of deer meat, responded that they don’t get any. The East Hampton Food pantry gets donated deer meat during the hunting season, however it is never labeled “deer meat” because people would not take it. So now it’s simply and deceptively labeled “burger” meat, and out the door it goes.

Disappearing understory mostly in the eye of the beholder, and with climate change, population growth, and development leading to loss of habitat, the deer continue to be used as convenient scapegoats.

Education: While the public is schooled and trained in the art of killing animals and efforts are made to increase hunting (a huge moneymaking industry), no efforts whatsoever are made to educate the public about compassion, about living in harmony with wildlife and their own responsibilities and behavior concerning speeding and the prevention of deer collisions, planting deer-resistant plants, taking preventive measures to ward off ticks (clothing, sprays, proper care of property).

A more aware and evolved public will continue to press this issue and demand different and more honest answers. So, candidates, beware! You are expected to have an open mind, be better informed, and put your own prejudices and old attitudes aside, when alternate, nonlethal options are offered. The time has come.


No Comedy

East Hampton

September 7, 2017

Dear David, 

Last week I was sent a video taken at the East Hampton nature preserve committee meeting. The chairman of the committee is Zachary Cohen and the segment of film focuses on an exchange between Marguerite Wolffsohn, the East Hampton Town Planning Director, with David Mazujian, the concerned Hampton Waters representative and president, who clearly explains that the entire Hampton Waters community is against hunting on a town-purchased single-home lot in that area.

What’s most disturbing about this video segment is the driving killing mentality that is displayed by Wolffsohn, which I have personally witnessed in the past when discussing the deer “non” issue, particularly at the deer management committee meetings. Not only does her public demeanor in this video exemplify poor, barbaric, compassionless, insulting rhetoric to those who love and have absolute right and reason to love our wildlife, particularly our deer, but it’s also an attitude of hate that has created mass hysteria, bunko research, and worst of all, a divided community right here in our town, village, and hamlets. I believe a community divided is a burden that no leadership would want to bestow on their community. Not doing anything about it and letting the divide exist is inexcusable, and not a quality I want to be exposed to through another political term. I feel that this rhetoric is damaging and has no place in a position of structuring our town in any way. 

At one point in the video, Wolffsohn clarifies her definition of hunting and the town’s possible plans of “capturing and euthanizing” deer on this one-lot residential parcel at Hampton Waters. What the hell is that about? Are there other parcels being staged for this capture and kill method that the town “might want to do,” according to Wolffsohn? Are there other demonic plans for the deer that the public doesn’t know about? Are they managed by Wolffsohn and/or Andy Gaites? Approved by Larry Cantwell and members of the town board? Besides her inhumane Dahmer-like attitude toward our deer, what makes this behavior acceptable, necessary, or beneficial to any solution? 

The only people I know that want to kill to solve self-prescribed problems, or start mass hysteria, are psychopaths and terrorists. Am I right, or am I wrong? There are honest, hard-working, God-fearing folks who find no issues with the deer, and love all our wildlife. They have the right to feel this way and the equal right to want them left alone. They don’t drive different vehicles, use different roads, or have access to different wooded trails or the ability to purchase different plants. They have the same experiences with the deer as the haters, yet they have no issues with them or thoughts of their demise. They also don’t need to be subjected to a town employee displaying and promoting a hateful message against them, or the deer. Neither should our children have to be exposed to that mentality, particularly in the context when solving issues.

Here’s a great example. I know there are town board members who are avid hunters. They also have the decency and respect not to make that the subject of conversation around folks that it might offend, like myself, so in turn I respect them. They don’t boast about shooting their deer for food, then post a photo of themselves holding up the dead animal’s head, shooting the devil sign while weapon is still loaded, toasting with a can of beer. In turn, I don’t bring home my groceries and post a selfie with my New York strip or fillet of sole. The board members behave respectfully, because that’s what this community deserves, that’s what individuals deserve, that’s what our wildlife deserves, and that’s what will mend the divide in this town. Not aggressive hatred, but respect. Keep that hateful killing mentality shit behind your closed doors, on your time, Ms. Wolffsohn. Share your hatred and deplorable attitude toward our wildlife with your family and your children, and wherever you came from, but leave our community and our children alone. There is enough hate in this world, we don’t need it in my hometown.

As far as the deer, and all our wildlife, they don’t deserve that mentality either. It’s bad enough the abuse they take and have taken in this growing out of control town management, but to assign such a hateful persona to represent the town in issues that require priority, sensitivity, compassion, and a united effort, is inexcusable, a bad decision and one that needs to be corrected immediately by our town supervisor, unless Mr. Cantwell and the present town board find this to be acceptable and beneficial behavior. And shame on you, Zach Cohen, for consistently allowing her death maiden mentality to be part of any serious committee conversation without your objection. Shame on all of you for allowing such hatred to be a component in our local government.

Now, make a committee of folks who just believe there is a deer problem without any viable data, other than Andy Gaites’s speculative and invalid studies. Add in a couple hunters, Wolffsohn, reps from state, county, village, etc., etc., (none of which ever show up), two stones from the State D.E.C., a member from the East Hampton Group for Wildlife with zero experience in deer management who fills a chair, and me (to make it look like they care), and there you have the East Hampton Town deer management committee. Imagine that? I’d make reference to it being a great sitcom idea, but there is no comedy in this committee, my friends, and no laughs in regards to the issue and the harm they are creating. 

I think our town leadership should take a closer look at this circus and either structure it equally with people who want to and can make positive and respectful decisions in regard to deer management if it’s legitimately found to be necessary, or shut the doors on this senseless insult to our community. The issue, not the deer, has gotten completely out of control and needs to be settled down. Humans are the cause of all our problems, not our wildlife. People are clearly and undeniably the ticks of humanity. 

Next week I’ll explain to you all why Andy Gaites’s data on the deer versus vehicle issue is not correct, which makes his data and his deer strike map invalid. Get your pen out, Andy, you missed a couple important variables that make a bit of a difference in your miscount. This is how misinformation screws up the opportunity for valid research, and spawns hysteria and hate. 


Managing Deer Herds


September 5, 2017

Dear Editor,

I am prompted to write by a friend who suggested that the discourse about managing deer in our landscapes is difficult because many people see humanity as separate from, and outside, “Nature.” Deer on the other hand, are part of “Nature.” Note that in this meaning, nature is often feminine and capitalized to indicate reverence and emphasize that “She” is separate from us. And it flows logically that any human action to manage the deer population — hunting, culling, birth control — should be condemned because Nature knows best.

I would like to challenge this thinking in the best tradition of William Cronon, an environmental philosopher and historian who writes that we make poor decisions when we imagine we can escape into the “mythical wilderness” of nature untouched by humans.

This past week I’ve been thinking about the concept of nature in the context of Thomas and Mary Nimmo Moran, the artists who built the house at 229 Main Street in East Hampton, known as The Studio. During the course of the past year, I’ve been coordinating the project to recreate and now tend Mary Nimmo Moran’s garden at The Studio, so these two artists are very much on my mind. The Morans also offer an interesting way to approach the subject of what nature is and whether humans are separate from or part of it.

Thomas Moran was a celebrity during his lifetime. His paintings inspired the National Park Act and specifically the creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872. Moran’s works were inevitably included in any of last year’s exhibitions celebrating the centennial of the National Park Service and are in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian, among other museums. They have hung in the Capitol building and were displayed in Barack Obama’s Oval Office — so, clearly they continue to inspire even today. An important and uniquely American way in which we preserve nature is to create national parks and protected areas, as Larry Penny described so well in this past week’s Star, and this is a good thing.

Moran painted within the context of the Romantic movement that glorified wilderness and the unexplored, unpopulated places on the American continent. This is Nature with an initial cap, and Moran depicted it as distinctly separate from us, with tiny human silhouettes added to his paintings to emphasize the scale and scope of landscapes glorifying the grandeur of God’s creation — waterfalls, canyons, cliffs, and mountains. On his first trip west in 1871, Moran spent 40 days on horseback with the Hayden Geological Survey exploring the Yellowstone region, traveling to places that then had no roads and may never have been seen by people of European descent, at a time when this may have been the last unexplored frontier on the continent. Thus his work reflects reverence for the idea of Nature without man’s imprint. Moran returned to the West many times over the next 40 years to paint these landscapes, and his paintings drew crowds by the tens of thousands when displayed for the public.

By contrast, his wife, Mary Nimmo Moran, also an artist, remained close to home, managing the Moran household (including three children), assisting her husband with his own work, and acting as his business manager. On one of her husband’s long trips west she taught herself etching, and soon became widely recognized both here and abroad as one of its pre-eminent practitioners. Because she remained at home, many of her plein air landscapes were done in and around their home on Main Street, an area then surrounded by farmland. She chose as her subjects the vernacular landscapes that depict the agrarian roots of East Hampton. Mankind’s imprint on Nature is present in all of her work — a windmill or church tower in the distance, a road deeply rutted by wagon wheels, a bridge, or a fence along a field.

I love the fact that she was so celebrated in her time — collected by John Ruskin, chosen for the frontispiece illustration in the catalog for “The Work of Women Etchers in America” exhibit of 1888, and the one whose work was singled out for praise when she and her husband exhibited etchings side by side.

Contemporaries noted the “virile strength” and “masculine” qualities of her work, which at the time referred to the bold and evocative style with which she captured a scene. Nimmo Moran’s etchings were no Hallmark visions. They spoke to Nature’s compelling beauty and power in the humble scenes of our everyday lives. More important, though, I like to think that her etchings express the idea of mankind within nature, not separate from it.

By including ourselves as part of Nature, we are forced to admit that we always make choices that affect outcomes for the life surrounding us. Every day we “kill” plants for food, shelter, and clothing, even as plants create the oxygen we breathe and the possibility of life on Earth. If we eat meat or wear leather, we need to remind ourselves that someone took an animal’s life to provide the food on our plate or the shoes on our feet, the wallets in our pockets and the belts around our waists. Nature is not the view from our window, but something we interact with and manage all the time, whether we admit it or not.

The farms in Mary Nimmo Moran’s etchings and her own garden on Main Street, which included apple trees that are known magnets for deer, weren’t fenced — because there were virtually no deer in East Hampton at the time. Deer became locally extinct on Long Island by at least the early 19th century, if not 100 years earlier, and were reintroduced by sportsmen who wished to hunt them. A word search of The East Hampton Star, founded in 1885 and available at New York Historical Newspapers, first mentions the word “deer” in 1918 in an article advocating for game refuges in national forests far from Long Island. And a sighting of a single deer in Southampton made page six of The Star later in the same year. 

Jim Sterba, author of “Nature Wars,” reminds us that the current abundance of deer in our landscapes is our own creation, not a magical gift from Nature. Starting in the 20th century, we wrote laws that restricted hunting, and in fact, fewer and fewer of us even hunt these days. The decline of hunting, combined with our elimination of top predators from the American landscape and the growth of suburbia, where each yard abounds with the edge habitat favored by deer, has led to their remarkable resurgence. Their population has increased from 300,000 in 1930 to 30 million today — 100 times in less than 100 years — due to human actions and decisions.

At these numbers, deer are very definitely reshaping our landscapes, and most notably, the forest remnants sprinkled across the suburban sprawl in which we live, that now spreads almost continuously along the Northeast Corridor. Forests that had been cut to clear land for farming and later to supply firewood to cities in the 19th and early 20th centuries, have returned, but may not survive another 50 years.

Compounding this issue, and arguably more serious, is the fact that deer are a significant disease vector for the very complicated bacterial and viral illnesses that ticks harbor, some of which now cause permanent and irreversible neurological damage. Were you aware that deer walking across your yard may leave behind up to 500 ticks, and many, many more — 2,000 by some estimates and 8,000 by others — for each female tick that falls off and lays eggs? A Southold resident wrote to me recently that almost every family in her area has four tick-borne diseases, and a doctor in town has treated 400 cases of Alpha Gal (the red-meat allergy). Both a zoonotic disease researcher I know and a local doctor agree that they can think of no comparable threat to human health in the history of medicine. 

So we are left with the question, to manage or not to manage? I watched a video on the Humane Society of the United States website the other night, in which Sam Telford, Professor of Infectious Disease and Global Health at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, cites an example on Cape Cod of reducing the deer population in one area from 50 to 8 animals. This led to an 80-percent drop in tick populations. Telford is a persuasive advocate for managing deer herds to reduce disease incidence.

Let me end with a quote from Jim Sterba, one which is in the spirit of both Thomas and Mary Nimmo Moran and which appeals to us all to manage the deer population not just for our own benefit, but for the Nature that we are part of:

“The comeback of wildlife and forests all but demands that we re-connect to the natural world that is right around us, re-learn old skills and develop new ways of practicing those skills better. I think there ought to be wild places where we leave nature alone, or mostly alone. Places we visit or study but don’t stay. But we are ubiquitous on much of the rest of the landscape and are already manipulating it for good or ill whether we know it or not. I think we have a responsibility as a keystone species to manage the ecosystems around us for the good of all their inhabitants — plants, animals, and even people. And I tend to think we can do a better job of it than can white-tailed deer.”

Yours truly,