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Nov 10, 2015 1:53 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

North Haven Village Hires Deer Consultant

Nov 11, 2015 9:23 AM

The Village of North Haven has hired a deer management consultant in an effort to be more transparent with its residents on its efforts to control the deer population, as well as provide actual data as to its effectiveness.

John Rocchetta worked for the village last year, at no cost, and was subsequently hired as a paid village consultant in July, at the rate of $45 an hour. He said his goal is to create a detailed database that includes recent statistics that can be shared with residents, including deer population figures and the results of permitted hunting efforts.

When asked how many deer there are currently in North Haven, Mr. Rocchetta said: “That is why they brought me in—I don’t know yet. But there are a lot.”

He added that he hopes to have an accurate count by March 2016. “That will help me determine how many are going to be harvested—I don’t want them to be over-harvested,” he said.

Mr. Rocchetta explained that his objective is only to balance the herd so that “people are excited again when they see deer.”

He said it is not the village’s goal to destroy the entire white-tailed deer population. That fear surfaced in 2014, when the village hired Connecticut-based White Buffalo Inc., a private deer-culling firm, to thin their numbers—a decision that prompted multiple environmental groups to threaten litigation.

North Haven’s discreet culling program has been in place for about 20 years. Since that time, the largest deer population ever recorded in the village was in 1995, when about 456 deer were identified. The most recent count was conducted in 2013, when an aerial survey identified 104 deer in the municipality.

After the scheduled hunting season closes at the end of 2015, residents can obtain deer nuisance permits that will allow them to hunt after the official season is over in an attempt to further reduce the population.

The village itself already requires more documentation than New York State does to hunt within North Haven’s borders, as hunters must obtain a card. Aside from filling out an application, each hunter is interviewed by Mr. Rocchetta to ensure that he or she is qualified and is in good standing with the State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The hunters who participate are not paid—hunting in the village is for their own recreational enjoyment and done on their own time, Mr. Rocchetta explained.

“My job is to collect the information of the hunters and to do deer counts and maps of the area to show property owners who have given permission and who hasn’t,” he said.

He noted that hunters must be at least 150 feet away from a home at all times, although those making the rounds in North Haven typically do not come that close. Mr. Rocchetta said he bases his head counts on sightings by hunters. “I calculate the number of deer sighted per hour—rather than counting the number of deer. I count sightings and, as sightings drop, I decrease how many I take,” he said.

Mr. Rocchetta founded a group more than 20 years ago called the Rational Naturalists, although it has been named officially for only the past three years. The hunters come from all over Long Island and include those who can be hired by property owners.

While members of the Rational Naturalists are able to hunt in North Haven, they are not required to be a part of that group. Mr. Rocchetta stressed that the hunters in North Haven and the Rational Naturalists are different groups, although the two can overlap. “It tends to be more of a group to hunt on residential properties where people want someone who is experienced, caring and understands the environment,” he said, adding that he personally certifies hunters by how proficient they are with a bow and arrow, among other credentials.

North Haven Village Clerk Ed Deyermond explained that North Haven hired Mr. Rocchetta for transparency purposes and to get an accurate count of current deer populations in the village. That figure will help determine how many deer should be taken.

“We are trying to get more property owners to join the hunt as well,” added Mr. Deyermond, noting that he thinks approximately two dozen village property owners have given hunters permission to hunt on their land.

He continued: “We are just trying to reduce the size of the herd, trying to manage the issue and provide peace of mind to our neighbors, and reduce the incidence of tick-borne diseases and car accidents.”

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