The East Hampton Village Board gave spaying as part of a deer management program unanimous support last Thursday. Spaying had not been mentioned publicly, but it was discussed at a closed meeting on April 9 between village officials and Anthony DeNicola, a wildlife biologist and president of White Buffalo, a nonprofit research and management organization. He is reported to be an expert on spaying programs.
Board members expressed support for spaying in conjunction with culling at the meeting after the executive director and chairwoman of the Village Preservation Society urged the board to move ahead. Offering a $5,000 grant contingent on a formal plan of action, Kathy Cunningham, the executive director, and Joan Osborne, the chairwoman, asked the board to include spaying in the village plan. Immunocontraception was not discussed.
“We’ve been approaching you probably for two years now on this topic and don’t know why it’s taking so long,” she said. Spaying “has been shown to be 100-percent effective,” Ms. Cunningham said.
Referring to the meeting with Dr. DeNicola, Ms. Cunningham said her group had not been invited, “which was not a little insulting.” She spoke of frustration with the village’s failure to promulgate a plan incorporating spaying, which she said should take place in the autumn, before does are pregnant, and for which a months-long permitting process would be required by the State Department of Environmental Conservation.
“I would hope that you recognize that your board of trustees is trying to be inclusive and explore any and all potential programs that might be the beneficial way to go,” Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. said to Ms. Cunningham. He added that the 2014-15 village budget, which has not been finalized, would include $15,000 for deer management. “Give the board credit for trying to do the right thing. We’re just trying to come up with the best possible medium as we move ahead.” A budget hearing will take place on June 20.
“Okay, I hear you,” Ms. Cunningham replied. “You have to get this permitting process off the ground,” she said, “and you can only get it off the ground when you commit to doing the program.” She said it would require hiring an expert to detail how spaying would be done and provide oversight. “There’s pretty rigorous protocols that need to be met by the D.E.C.,” she said, in order to receive a permit.
According to Ms. Cunningham, a spaying program in Cayuga Heights, N.Y., has been highly effective, and the use of volunteers such as veterinarians in a program’s second year could cut the cost in half. “It’s a community service that people would be interested in participating in,” she said.
Asked if spaying would begin in the fall, Mr. Rickenbach said, “That would be the hopeful objective.” He reminded Ms. Cunningham that after the Long Island Farm Bureau and the Department of Agriculture proposed culling, “residents became frantic with respect to what was going to happen.” The village as well as East Hampton Town abandoned the proposal last winter, at least temporarily. “We’re reconnoitering and we’re going to come up very shortly with a product,” he said.
When Ms. Osborne followed Ms. Cunningham to the dais, she spoke of landscape destruction, ticks carried by deer, deer-vehicle collisions, and the proliferation of deer fences. She asked the board to provide a line item in its 2014-15 budget for spaying, “And I would ask that you act today,” she said.
After the meeting, Ms. Cunningham said spaying, in which does’ reproductive organs would be removed, would occur in the field. Deer would be attracted to a bait station, trapped, and sedated before the procedure, which she said would take approximately 20 minutes.
She also issued a press release that called cutting the deer population by 50 percent in the village impossible. It also said the $5,000 grant was contingent on the board’s commitment to a spaying program “within a reasonable time frame.”
“The village board has been promising for some time now to incorporate a deer spaying program into existing lethal methods of controlling deer populations in the village,” it said, calling spaying more “socially acceptable” than other