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Feb 24, 2015 11:43 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Four Poster Tick Management Program May Come to East Hampton Town

Feb 24, 2015 11:43 AM

In the on-gong battle against the prolific tick population on the East End, the East Hampton Deer and Tick Management Foundation is moving forward with a four poster deer feeding station program with help from New York State, East Hampton Town and private homeowners.

The Town would install the stations, which administer a tickicide on deer that host them much like a Frontline treatment on dogs, on plots of open land in Springs, Northwest Woods and at Barcelona Neck State Park.

The town is currently working on an application to the State Department of Conservation for eight locations, including at the Girl Scouts of Nassau County Camp Bay in Springs, town and county open space at the Springs Woodblock Park, at the Merrill Lake Preserve and on private land.

“I would say at some point we’d like to get to a place where people don’t feel like prisoners in their own homes,” said Randy Parsons of the Nature Conservancy, which has maintained four poster stations on its property at the Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island. “There is definitely momentum with this. East Hampton Town and the five East End towns have done so much to protect open space in this region. It’s almost like a large park-like area and a big part of our economy and our character. It needs to be managed well, and we see this as a part of the ever-evolving management of open space.”

A four poster station is approximately 3 square feet and made of plastic. There is a middle silo that holds corn, which empties out into two sinks, where the deer can access their food. When the deer go to eat the corn, their necks, chests and faces rub up against paint rollers doused in permethrin, the tickicide.

Permethrin is a common pesticide that is commonly used on livestock, in livestock feed, on fruit trees and on humans. Permethrim is a main ingredient in lice treatment shampoo for children, according to Mike Scheibel, the natural resources manager at the Mashomack Preserve.

He said it is effective on invertebrates and has a low mammalian toxicity, meaning that it could be dangerous to insects like honeybees but wouldn’t have very much impact on humans or other mammals. It also doesn’t move through soil very well, he said, so it hasn’t been a problem for groundwater. He said it is the preferable method of distribution, rather than broadcasting the pesticide across a piece of land.

A three-year Cornell University four poster deer and tick study was conducted on Shelter Island before the town received permits from the Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC then ruled that such programs would be allowed in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, provided permits are obtained.

Shelter Island has been using the four poster program since 2008, with much success, according to Mr. Parsons and Mr. Scheibel.

The tick population on Shelter Island has been reduced from about 450 lone star ticks per plot to approximately 50, according to Mr. Scheibel.

In pilot programs in Arkansas, Massachusetts, Maryland and at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Robert Moses State Park and on Shelter Island, it has been found that tick populations can be reduced in a 40- to 100-acre site with one four poster by between 77 and 90 percent after several years of treatment, with no significant adverse impacts to the animals or the environment.

The tick population can be monitored by what Mr. Scheibel calls “tick flagging.” By using a 1-meter-long white cloth on a stick and running it through low vegetation for 30 seconds, 30 times, workers can count a population in a given plot of land. The numbers largely depend on the weather and humidity, too.

Anecdotally, Mr. Scheibel said that he has noticed a downturn in the number of ticks at the Mashomack Preserve while doing wildlife surveys and monitoring the impacts that deer have had on the forest there.

“Before, it was intolerable in the forest in August,” he said. “Now it is workable. You can certainly still see ticks. They’re still a big concern, but it’s a great improvement.”

While the group has not yet done any tick flagging in East Hampton, it is clear there is a tick problem here too.

Sanjay Chadda, a homeowner on Peach Farm Lane in Northwest Woods, said he is willing to financially support the four poster program and have a station on a preserve near his home.

“I think people really need to wake up to understand this is a very big deal and ultimately that people should really appreciate how debilitating a disease Lyme is,” he said. “There is very clear evidence that this works.”

Mr. Chadda doesn’t have Lyme disease—a disease that has been linked to the lone star tick—but he knows several people who do.

“I have been following Lyme disease for some period of time and I’ve noticed a growing number of cases on the East End over the last number of years. I’d say in the last 24 months, I’ve personally known five to six people who have contracted Lyme disease.”

Mr. Chadda helped finance a documentary called “Under Our Skin 2: Emergence,” about the disease, and he hopes to be able to financially back the four poster program.

A private homeowner who wants to participate must control at least 40 acres of land.

The East Hampton Deer and Tick Management Foundation is planning to implement the program with public and private funds and says that it will take approximately $4,500 per station per year to run the program. It costs anywhere from $700 to $1,000 to buy the actual four poster station and approximately $4,000 to buy supplies, plus the cost of three employees to administer the program, stock, store and maintain the feeding stations, rollers and monitor the effectiveness of the program.

State Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele have said there is $500,000 in the state budget for the five East End towns to pay the capital costs of a four poster program and that East Hampton is eligible for $100,000 of that.

Mr. Thiele, who battled with babesiosi—a tick borne illness—in December, said that East Hampton Town is in the process of putting together a plan on how to use the money and treat the highly-impacted areas in the short run, but he doesn’t see the four poster program being implemented until at least next year.

“Given my experience in places like Shelter Island and North Haven, which is in the process of implementing a program, it’s not something you can pull together in couple days or a week,” he said. “The number of people impacted by tick borne illnesses is substantial, and I’d be the first to say there are various ways to do it, either by reducing the number of deer or using programs like the four poster program, each have their pluses and critics, but from my perspective, doing nothing is not an option.”

He added that he is currently looking into legislation that would allow municipalities to create their own tick control districts, develop their own plans and have the financial resources to implement their plans.

Mr. Parsons said that while the population of ticks is largely associated with the large population of deer, this approach would tackle the problem in the meantime, while East Hampton figures out how it wants to deal with the deer population.

“In observing the stalemate over what to do about the deer, I think we just wanted to move ahead with going after the ticks and letting the deer thing work itself out,” he said.

Zachary Cohen, the chairman of the town’s Deer Management Advisory Committee said that the committee will discuss this week whether the four poster program could be useful in non-lethal methods of deer management.

"Fewer ticks will mean increased use and enjoyment of our preserves," he said. "The safe-routes-to-school initiatives can more safely propose children walking to school. If there is less need to spray residential yards for ticks, then the amount of tickicide broadcast into the environment will be lower. The four poster program will be a important benefit for public health."

For more information, contact Mr. Parsons at (631) 329-8239.

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