According to Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell, the deer cull is still scheduled to take place in Southold; he added that the United States Department of Agriculture is planning to get the culling underway in mid-February.
"Southold made a commitment to participate in the cull early in the process," he said, adding that the decisions of other municipalities did not affect Southold's commitment to residents to tackle what many perceive to be a public health and safety crisis.
Last week, after weeks of contentious debate over a proposed deer cull meant to thin the herd in East Hampton, Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell announced Friday that the town would not be in a position to participate in the sharpshooter program this year.
A memo sent out from Cantwell, Councilman and Fred Overton, deer plan liaison stated that after meeting with Senior Environmental Analyst Andy Gaites, Town Attorney Elizabeth Vail, and Planning Director Marguerite Wolffsohn for a discussion on the town's deer management plan and the Long Island Farm Bureau’s deer-cull proposal, the sharpshooter plan will be a no-go this season.
"iI appears certain the Town of East Hampton will not be in a position to participate in the Long Island Farm Bureau program this year," Cantwell wrote.
The memo outlined reasons for the decision, including an Article 78 that has been filed challenging the town deer plan.
The legal action commenced in December; opponents filed suits in Suffolk County Supreme Court aimed at shooting down the culling plan.The Article 78 and declaratory judgement, which sought to stop the town and village from going forward with the program, was filed in December against the town board, town trustees, and the Village of East Hampton.
It was brought by 15 residents and two organizations, including Montauk residents William (Bill) Crain and Ellen Crain and their organization, the East Hampton Group for Wildlife, as well as the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center, which serves the entire East End, though it is located in Hampton Bays.
"There may be additional litigation on a local and/or federal level opposing the Long Island Farm Bureau Plan, based on correspondence received," Cantwell wrote in the memo.
In addition, Cantwell said the town had been advised that an Environmental Impact Statement pursuant to the state environmental review was likely required before the town formally agreed to participate in the Long Island Farm Bureau program, based on existing case law.
Cantwell added that the response from private property owners asking to participate in the Long Island Farm Bureau Plan had been minimal.
For those reasons, the plan would not likely fly this season, Cantwell said.
"However, if participation is open next year and a more complete environmental analysis is completed, the town can reconsider. In the meantime, we recommend the town continue implementing the town deer management plan.
"Going forward, the town should continue to support hunting as a primary method of reducing and managing the overall deer population, and the town board has supported state legislation to allow expanded hunting opportunities on the East End. Last year, more than 500 deer were taken by hunters, according to reports to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation," Cantwell wrote.
Another key step, the supervisor said, would be to provide the public with additional and better info about the deer population and its impacts on the environment, public safety, property and crops.
"Toward this end, the town should improve its monitoring of the deer population and related environmental damage. It should compile data on deer vs. vehicle accidents and locations of deer over time, as well as the hunting of the animals," the supervisor said.
Cantwell suggested educational information be added to the town's website on deer biology, deer fencing, hunting, and the impact of deer; a deer hot line should be created; additional town properties should be added for deer hunting seasons; there should be increased management of the town airport strike hazard permit, so that more hunters would be added, as well as tags from DEC; metrics should be developed to assess changes in the deer population and environmental damage; coordination with hunters and private property owners should be orchestrated for regular hunting seasons; assistance should be given to private property owners to obtain nuisance permits; the town should apply for nuisance permits on its municipal properties; and donation of venison to food pantries should be facilitated.
For weeks, animal advocates and hunters have spoken out in opposition to the proposed cull; a demonstration was held in East Hampton.
In Southold, however, the public is in overwhelming favor of the sharpshooter plan; scores spoke out in favor of the plan at a recent public meeting, citing dire health and safety concerns, as well as environmental issues.